Several factors to explain this not so wintry start to winter

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

Friday's inch of snow is nothing compared to what was on the ground last year at this time. Snowmobiling has been pretty much non-existent so far this season. Last year Eau Claire had a record snow pack of 24" for Christmas day and now this year barely any.

So why has this winter been so calm in the Chippewa Valley during the winter months? After word got out earlier this fall that La Niña would be sticking around for winter many folks were bracing for another brutal winter. However, we've mentioned it before. There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to how bad winter will be.

"i enjoy it," says Kim Creser of today’s snow. Her and her husband Dave were happy to see snow today, but they'd like to see some more. "Enough to cover the ground to keep it covered. Like i said it makes things look clean."

We aren't the only ones. Much of the northern states have far less snow than last year. So why will a white Christmas be hard to come by this year?

Two main reasons, one is a "split flow" of the jet stream which is where the jet stream breaks off into two smaller jet streams. This has kept the cold air from interacting with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. So the main storm track has stayed to our south and we've seen relatively mild air and only weak clippers.

"It's pretty tough to break the pattern and we've been in a drought for months basically since august," says Shawn Devinny, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The other reason is we are under what's called a "positive arctic oscillation" caused by higher pressure near the North Pole that keeps the cold air locked up in Canada and the jet stream mainly to our north. Last year the negative oscillation occurred which allowed cold air to invade several times into the U.S.

"There's resorts up north that depend on snowmobiling traffic, so there are some true economic impacts at the individual business level that are very serious whether you have snow or not," says Linda John of Visit Eau Claire.

So what can break the status quo?

"it's going to be something on the hemispheric scale. A shift in the whole upper pattern even across other parts of the world in the northern hemisphere," explains Devinny.

That change doesn't look to come in the next two weeks with this split flow pattern to persist. However forecast models for the arctic oscillation show that changing in the next 10 days. That could mean more typical winter type weather later in January.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by frank Location: bloomer on Jan 9, 2012 at 08:41 AM
    put a camera on top of the new tower!!!
  • by Leonard on Dec 27, 2011 at 07:52 AM
    To Meteo. Mark Holley. I will take this difference from normal over the other difference of 20 or more below zero, with howling winds blowing crusted drifts across the roads and drives. It is about time we had a mild winter, at least the first month of it so far! What a wonderful Christmas present from the jet streams and NAO.
  • by Driver Location: garage on Dec 26, 2011 at 12:23 PM
    Clean? Clean!!!!!????? Snow and ice stuck all over everything. Salt and slush all over vehicles, dripping all over the floor in the garage. The only part about clean with this stuff is that there is a lot cleaning up to do after it falls. Snow, dust of the winter.
  • by Walter on Dec 26, 2011 at 07:54 AM
    Pretty simple. Last year twice the normal snow, this year no snow. It all comes out to average in the end. Unless you want to believe in myths, then you will think it was normal last year, and global warming this year.
  • by Gregg on Dec 24, 2011 at 09:18 AM
    If it's not Christmas if there is no snow, what is it? The only place I ever heard it would be cancelled if there was no snow, was on some silly children's special on TV. If you want to believe that, Sam the snowman can tell you how to avoid the Heat Miser, and Snow Miser.
  • by John Location: Eau Claire on Dec 24, 2011 at 08:52 AM
    I'm wondering where Global Warming plays into this? I'm afraid the earth is warming up and we might all be doomed. Al Gore prophesied all this. If only people would listen to the great prophet and conribute most of their money to his Alliance for Climate Protection we just might have a chance.
  • by snowmobiler on Dec 23, 2011 at 07:38 PM
    Its a pretty bad winter when a snowmobiler has to start watching/ understanding what the GFS, NAM, RUC, EURO are. One of them has a change for a decent storm but its to far out. I think we will be riding towards the end of January.
  • by arlan Location: colfax on Dec 23, 2011 at 07:07 PM
    "Her and her husband" ??? Come on Matt.
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