Winter is upon us once again, and with it comes the anticipation of colder weather, snow and ice, and the need to bundle up. As we look towards the coming months, many are wondering what kind of winter we can expect. Will it be a mild one or a brutal one? Will there be lots of snow or will we be spared? In this article, we’ll explore the factors that can influence winter weather and take a closer look at some of the predictions that have been made for this year.
Weather patterns that affect winter weather
Winter weather can be influenced by a number of different factors. One of the most significant is the polar vortex, a large area of low pressure and cold air that circulates around the North Pole. When the polar vortex is strong, it tends to keep cold air bottled up over the polar regions, which minimizes the chances of extreme cold outbreaks in other parts of the world. However, when the polar vortex weakens, it can allow some of that cold air to spill out and impact other areas.
Another factor that can influence winter weather is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. This cycle involves fluctuations in ocean surface temperatures and atmospheric pressure over the tropical Pacific Ocean. When El Niño conditions occur, the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are warmer than normal, which can lead to changes in atmospheric winds and the behavior of storm systems. La Niña conditions, on the other hand, involve cooler than normal sea surface temperatures, which can also affect weather patterns.
The polar vortex: what to expect this year
So what does this mean for this winter? According to meteorologists, the polar vortex is expected to be strong this year, which means that the chances of extended periods of extreme cold in the U.S. are lower than normal. However, this doesn’t mean that we won’t see any cold snaps at all. In fact, there are indications that we could see some colder than normal temperatures in certain parts of the country, particularly in the northern tier of states.
ENSO and winter weather predictions
The ENSO cycle is also a key factor in predicting winter weather. Currently, we are in a neutral phase, which means that there are no strong El Niño or La Niña conditions affecting the tropical Pacific. This can make predictions more difficult, as there are fewer clear signals to go on. However, some models are suggesting that we could see a weak La Niña develop later in the winter, which could have an impact on weather patterns.
Winter weather preparedness
Regardless of what kind of winter we end up having, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for whatever the season brings:
- Stock up on essentials: Make sure you have enough food, water, and other essentials to last for several days in case severe weather strikes.
- Prepare your home: Ensure that your home is insulated and that your heating system is in good working order. Check for drafts around doors and windows and seal them up if necessary.
- Get your car ready: If you live in an area that gets snow and ice, make sure your car is equipped to handle it. Have your tires checked and consider investing in winter tires if necessary. Keep an emergency kit in your car in case you get stranded.
Tips for staying warm
Besides being prepared with supplies and equipment, there are also steps you can take to stay warm when the temperature drops:
- Dress in layers: Wearing several layers of clothing can help trap heat and keep you warm. Start with a base layer of moisture-wicking fabric, add a layer of insulation (like fleece or down), and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
- Cover your extremities: Your fingers, toes, and ears are especially susceptible to cold, so be sure to wear gloves, socks, and a hat to keep them warm.
- Stay active: Exercise generates heat, so try to stay active even when it’s cold outside. This can be as simple as doing some stretching or yoga indoors.
While it’s difficult to predict exactly what kind of winter we’ll have, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst. By paying attention to weather patterns and taking the necessary steps to prepare your home and vehicles, you can make sure you and your family stay safe and warm throughout the season.
Common questions about winter weather
- What causes extreme cold in the winter? Extreme cold in the winter often occurs when the polar vortex weakens, allowing cold air to spill out and impact other areas. Other factors that can influence winter weather include the ENSO cycle and changes in atmospheric winds and storm systems.
- What is the outlook for this winter? Meteorologists predict that the polar vortex will be strong this winter, which means that the chances of extended periods of extreme cold in the U.S. are lower than normal. However, there are indications that we could see some colder than normal temperatures in certain parts of the country, particularly in the northern tier of states.
- How can I prepare my home for winter weather? Make sure your home is insulated and that your heating system is in good working order. Check for drafts around doors and windows and seal them up if necessary. Have enough food, water, and other essentials to last for several days in case of severe weather.
- What should I do if I get stranded in my car during a winter storm? Stay with your car and do not try to walk to safety. Run the engine and heater for short intervals to conserve fuel and stay warm. Keep a window cracked to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
- How can I stay warm when it’s cold outside? Dress in layers, cover your extremities, and stay active. Wearing several layers of clothing can help trap heat and keep you warm. Cover your fingers, toes, and ears with gloves, socks, and a hat. Exercise generates heat, so try to stay active even when it’s cold outside.
- NOAA National Weather Service. (2019). How the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle affects the United States. Retrieved from https://www.weather.gov/safety/safe-winter-enso
- NOAA National Weather Service. (2020). Polar Vortex. Retrieved from https://www.weather.gov/crh/polar_vortex
- Safe Electricity. (n.d.). Winter Storm Safety Tips. Retrieved from https://safeelectricity.org/winter-storm-safety-tips/
- Weather Underground. (2020). Winter Weather Preparedness. Retrieved from https://www.wunderground.com/winter