As we enter November and temperatures continue to get colder, many of you may want an idea of what type of weather we will experience this winter.  Going into this winter we have seen El Nino conditions develop in the tropical Pacific. As of this writing, this looks to be the strongest El Nino that we have seen in almost a decade.  I could only find nine years since 1950 when temperatures in the El Nino zone were as warm as they are now.  I will use these years as a guide as to what might be on the way for the upcoming winter months of December, January, and February.  

The latest Winter Outlook from the National Weather Service says that we have an above-average chance of seeing above-normal precipitation. It also points out that temperatures this winter will average out to be near normal. That doesn’t give much detail on what we might see this winter. Here are the questions that I think you may have about winter along with my short answer.

Will it be colder than normal?  No, but probably colder than last winter.  

How many times will we drop below freezing?  Probably somewhere between 19 and 28. 

Will we have a hard freeze with temperatures below 20? Probably yes!  

Will temperatures rise into the 80s? After this summer? Of course! 

Will it indeed be wetter than normal as the NWS predicts? Probably yes.  

Perhaps the most important question of all is, Will it snow this winter? Probably a little, but less than 1”.  (In Shreveport)

I will explain these answers in more detail by looking at what happened in those nine El Nino winters and compare these answers to what happened in winters following one of the top ten very hot summers or Hot Summer Winters.  I’ll now refer to these years as HSWs.

Will this winter be colder than average?

The answer to this question will consider the average of all the high and low temperatures and compare those nine winter averages to the average winter temperatures of all winters dating back to 1874 in Shreveport.  I’ll be honest I was a bit surprised at what I found out.  I usually associate El Nino with warm and wet.  However, of the nine El Nino winters that I considered, SIX ended up with an average temperature colder than the average for all winters in Shreveport.  If you look at the ten HSWs, you get a different answer. EIGHT of those ten winters ended up with an average temperature warmer than the average of all winters in Shreveport.  This disagreement probably explains the ‘near normal’ outlook from the NWS.  Last winter was one of the ten HSWs.  I think that this winter will probably end up being colder than last winter, but probably still above average.  

Will temperatures reach 80 this winter?  

Again, there is disagreement in the answer to this question between the El Nino years and the HSW years.  Of the nine El Nino years I considered, 6 did NOT reach 80.  However, we DID reach 80 in 7 of the ten HSWs.  Again, I think that there is a better chance that we do hit 80 this winter than we don’t. Last winter we hit 80 degrees 12 times.  I don’t expect as many this winter.   

How many times will we dip to freezing or below? 

If you look at all winters on record in Shreveport, we see an average of 28 days where freezing temperatures are observed.  During the nine El Nino winters one of the winters recorded 28 freezing days.  Four years had less than the average of 28 days and four had more than 28 days. In other words, this data doesn’t offer much help in answering this question. That being said, SEVEN of the ten HSW winters featured less than the average of 28 freezing days.  Last winter, (one of the HSWs considered) only had 19 freezing days.  Chances are that we will have fewer than 28 freezing days but more than last year’s 19. (Note: this data includes any freezes that occurred from October through April)

Will we have a hard freeze with temperatures below 20?  

Finally, we have some agreement between the El Nino and HSW data.  Five of the nine El Nino winters saw temperatures drop below 20.  Surprisingly, seven of the 10 HSWs featured temperatures below 20.  That being said, the answer to this question is probably yes.  Last winter it happened twice.  That’s a look at possible temperatures this upcoming winter now it’s time to talk about rain and snow.

Will it indeed be wetter than normal as the NWS predicts? Once again data from El Nino & HSW years are in agreement.  Five of the nine El Nino winters saw above-normal rainfall.  We had wetter-than-normal conditions during seven of the ten HSWs.  That’s good news for parts of the ArkLaTex that are still experiencing drought conditions.

Will it snow this winter?  Both El Nino and HSW data agree that we probably will see a little snow this winter but it is unlikely that Shreveport will measure at least 1”.  Only three of the nine El Nino winters saw at least 1” of snow.  Snow data in Shreveport is available for only 8 of the 10 HSW years.  Of those eight, three had at least 1” of snow in Shreveport.  At least a trace of snow was recorded in 16 of the 17 winters that I considered.  

So in a nutshell, expect a wetter and slightly warmer winter than normal that probably be a little colder than last winter.  Chances are that we will see some snow, but not much. Stay tuned!