LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – November is here, and whether you are someone who immediately decorates for the holidays or someone who wants to hold onto your pumpkin spice latte a little longer, winter is right around the corner.
For us Arkansans, that means relatively mild temperatures with the threat of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and severe weather from December through March. So, is it going to be warm and wet, cool and dry, or according to the Old Farmers Almanac “Shivery, Wet, and Slushy”?
Unlike the Old Farmers Almanac, our forecast will include actual numbers and reasons behind them.
Let’s get to it!
It’s important to note that making a seasonal forecast is completely different than a 7-day forecast. Instead of looking at radar and computer models, we look at ocean currents and comparisons to similar winters of the past.
The ocean current that affects our winter weather the most is located in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It’s called ENSO (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) and it has to do with the sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. When the sea surface temperatures off the coast of Peru are warm we are in El Niño, and when they are cool La Niña. Right now we are in La Niña.
So what does a La Niña pattern mean for us?
According to the Climate Prediction Center, the typical La Niña winter will be warm and dry for the southern half of the U.S. and cool and wet for the northern half. Here in Arkansas, we partially fall into the warm and dry area.
This matches up well with the Climate Prediction Center’s winter forecast. Below is the winter 2022-2023 temperature/precipitation forecast from the Climate Prediction Center.
The Climate Prediction Center’s forecast is a good tool we can use to make our winter forecast for Arkansas better.
Last winter was during a La Niña too, and here in Little Rock, we saw well above average temperatures, near average rainfall, and near average snowfall. This was right on track with a typical La Niña winter.
This winter is unique because it will be the third La Niña winter in a row (typical La Niña last 9-12 months). There are only three other times on record that a La Niña has lasted three years (1954-1957, 1973-1976, and 1998-2001). With this information, we will look at the third winter from those stretches to see if a pattern immerges.
There are a few trends from those winters.
SNOWFALL: The most obvious is below-normal snowfall (Little Rock’s average snow: 5.1″).
RAINFALL: Two of the three years saw slightly above-normal rainfall (Little Rock’s average winter rainfall: 12.64″).
TEMPERATURES: Two of the three years saw much warmer-than-average temperatures (Little Rock’s average winter temperature: 43.4°).
These trends are a great tool that we can use to make this year’s forecast.
Let’s use all this information to put our winter 2022-2023 forecast together.
Temperatures this winter will be highly affected by La Niña. This means Arkansas and the rest of the south will see warmer-than-average temperatures during winter as a whole. That doesn’t mean we won’t see a few cold snaps where the temperatures drop well below freezing.
Rainfall this winter will also be affected by La Niña. This means Arkansas will see slightly below-average rainfall this winter.
Snowfall this winter will also be below-normal. We came to this conclusion because all of the 3rd year La Niña winters had very little snow.
Snow is the most difficult to determine because all it takes is one storm to put our seasonal snowfall above average. This happened during the winter of 2020-2021. December and January were mild with no snow at all. Then in February central Arkansas saw one of its coldest and snowiest periods on record.
If you hate the cold and snow this forecast is for you!
– Meteorologist Alex Libby
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The Arkansas Storm Team is a collaboration of two stations to bring you the largest weather team in the state when covering Arkansas weather.