Will we have a cold winter?

CREDIT: Emiko Charbonneau on click2pins

I spoke to the Houston Mortgage Broker’s Association Wednesday (thank you all for a great lunch) and one of the first questions was simple: Will we have a cold winter? That’s a good question--we’ve been through a couple of years now of plant-killing cold. But this year may be a bit different because El Nino is here to stay a while. You can see the model forecast below where I’ve drawn in a yellow arrow to the red. That’s the consensus line and it’s well above the base line of 0°C. A strong El Nino is forecast to last through winter:

CREDIT: International Research Institute for Climate and Society

So why does this matter? Well, generally an El Nino winter means warmer and drier than normal across the northern part of the country and cooler, wetter in the southern part, especially Texas. Here is a ‘general’ what to expect during an El Nino:

Cooler for Texas
Wetter for Texas

Why is this? Pretty simple. The warmer waters off the Eastern Pacific Coast result in warmer air which produces winds that move across Mexico. That warm air has moisture and thus the chances for rain go up across the southern part of the country. And that rain and the associated cloud cover obviously would keep us cooler. But don’t be fooled. Even though that is what we can generally expect, our chances of cold snaps and even snow are still possible. Here’s the current Climate forecast which, indeed, calls for warmer in the northern United States BUT has us as average, not necessarily cooler. Equal chances of an average winter.


As for precipitation, NOAA follows suit with an El Nino winter and keeps us a little wetter than normal.

A bit above normal for rain this winter and, yes, perhaps snow. CREDIT: NOAA

Of course, seems like everyone’s Go To for winter forecasts is the Old Farmer’s Almanac! Why not? So here is their cold, wintry forecast except for us, it’s mild and wet:

CREDIT: The Farmer's Almanac

Here are my thoughts: there is no way to get snow without precipitation and with above normal chances for precipitation then the snow odds go up as well. Will there be enough cold, arctic air plunging our way? It’s happened the past few years. A warmer world means the Arctic is also warmer, relatively speaking, and so the winds that would circulate the arctic circle locking in the cold air are weaker, allowing the frigid temperatures to plunge our way. All said, if the timing is on spot, then a cold, snow day is possible, even if not likely. As weathercasters like to say: We’ll see!

Have a great weekend--thank goodness for some rain this week.


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.