(WGHP) – NOAA released their 2022-2023 winter outlook on Thursday. The outlook calls for the return of the third consecutive La Nina winter, which drives warmer-than-average temperatures in the Southwest, Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard. 

Drag the slider to the left to see the U.S. Temperature outlook.
Drag it to the right to see the U.S. Precipitation outlook.

Not only does a large portion of the U.S. see warmer-than-average temperatures but La Nina winters also typically mean drier-than-average conditions in much of the country. 

From December through February, NOAA predicts drier-than-average conditions across the South with wetter-than-average conditions in the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. 

“Drought conditions are now present across approximately 59% of the country, but parts of the Western U.S. and southern Great Plains will continue to be the hardest hit this winter,” according to Jon Gottschalck, chief of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Operational Prediction Branch.

Since drier-than-average conditions are forecast across the South, drought conditions may expand into the Gulf Coast over the next few months. 

U.S. Temperature Outlook

The greatest chance for warmer-than-average temperatures will be in western Alaska, the Central Great Basin, the Southwest and through the Southern Plains. 

However, warmer-than-average temperatures are also favored in the Southeastern U.S. and along the Atlantic coast. 

U.S. Precipitation Outlook

This year, wetter-than-average conditions are most likely in western Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the northern Rockies, the Great Lakes, and the Ohio Valley. 

The greatest chances for drier-than-average conditions are forecast in portions of California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, southern Plains, the Gulf Coast and much of the Southeast. 

The remainder of the country falls into the category of equal chances for below-, near- or above-average seasonal precipitation. 

U.S. Drought Outlook 

Widespread extreme drought conditions are expected to persist across much of the West, the Great Basin and the central-to-southern Great Plains. 

Drought is also forecast to impact the middle and lower Mississippi Valley this winter with drought development possible across the South-central and Southeastern U.S. 

In the Northwestern U.S., drought conditions are expected to improve in the coming months. 

What does this mean for winter in the Piedmont Triad? 

According to NOAA’s winter outlook, from December through February, the Piedmont Triad can expect warmer-than-average temperatures and drier-than-average conditions. 

On Dec. 1, the Triad averages a high temperature of 55 degrees with a low temperature of 35 degrees. 

By Jan. 1, average high temperatures are near 49 degrees with low temperatures near 31 degrees. 

When February rolls around, temperatures begin to warm back up. Our high temperatures are around 51 degrees with low temperatures around 31 degrees at the start of the month. 

By the end of February, as we head into spring, we see a high temperature of 57 degrees with a low temperature of 35 degrees. 

Since NOAA is predicting warmer-than-average temperatures, if we add all the temperatures from December through February together and get the average, this is the number that is expected to be above normal.

Colder temperatures can still be expected to occur over the next three months however the average of the three months combined is likely to be warmer-than-average. 

The same can be said about precipitation. From December through February, the Triad normally observes 9.37 inches of rainfall. Since NOAA’s outlook forecasts the chance of a drier-than-average winter, we may not see quite that much rainfall. 

How does NOAA’s 2022-2023 outlook compare to past La Nina years in the Piedmont? 

Since records have begun, this is the third time we have observed a consecutive three-year La Ninas. The first, on record, was Dec. 1973 through Feb. 1976. The second was Dec. 1998 through Feb. 2001. The last two winters, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 were also La Nina years. 

Let’s dive into how the previous consecutive three-year La Ninas played out in the Triad.

December 1973 to February 1976 

Over the winter months in the Triad, combined temperatures (highs and lows) average 41.7 degrees. The observed combined temperatures over the three La Nina winters averaged 42.1 degrees, which corresponds to a La Nina winter where warmer-than-average temperatures typically occur. 

From December through February, the Triad normally observes 9.37 inches of rainfall. Over a three year period, we normally total 28.11 inches. From December 1973 to February 1976, the Triad observed 34.36 inches of rainfall. This means we saw 6.25 inches more than normal during the three year, three month span. This does not correspond with the drier-than-average conditions that typically occur in a La Nina year. 

While temperatures are normally warmer-than-average during a La Nina winter and conditions are typically drier-than-average, that does not mean we won’t see snowfall. In December 1973, the start of the La Nina winter, the Triad observed 8.3 inches of snow. 

December 1998 to February 2001

From December 1998 to February 2001, the Triad observed average combined temperatures of 41.4 degrees. The average combined temperature over those three months is normally 41.7 degrees, which means these La Nina winters had near-normal temperatures. 

During these three winters, the Triad observed 25.9 inches of rainfall which is 2.21 inches below normal. This corresponds with the drier-than-average conditions that typically occur in a La Nina year. 

As stated earlier, just because drier-than-normal conditions and warmer-than-average temperatures are expected during a La Nina year, it doesn’t mean we won’t see snowfall. In January 2000, the Triad observed 15.3 inches of snowfall. 

December 2020 to February 2022 

Most recently, the winters of 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 were La Nina years. The last two winters, temperatures averaged 42.2 degrees, which is just slightly above the average of 41.7 degrees. Our past two winters correspond with the warmer-than-average conditions that normally occur in this region during a La Nina year. 

In the Triad, the last two winters recorded 23.71 inches of rainfall from December through February. Over a two-year period, the Triad normally observes 18.74 inches of rain in the winter months. This means the last two winters combined saw nearly 5 inches of rainfall above normal. This doesn’t correspond with the drier-than-average conditions that typically occur during La Nina years. 

Do you remember the snowstorm in January 2022? Well, the Triad recorded over 8 inches of snow, during that La Nina winter. So, despite the warmer-than-average temperatures, the Triad was still able to see some decent snowfall. 

In summary, while NOAA is predicting warmer-than-average temperatures and drier-than-normal conditions, this does not mean that we won’t see a cold air outbreak and several inches of snow.