WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Since today is December 1 and the climatological start of winter this is a good time to look at what maybe in store for the next 3 months. Last winter was dominated by the El Nino weather pattern, which is defined as having unusually warm water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. This unusually warm water drives upper level weather patterns and changes weather patterns. Last winter we had a very active southern jet stream branch as a result of El Nino, which led to abundant precipitation. We also had a persistent jet stream trough over the area for much of the winter, which kept temperatures well below normal along most of the U.S. east coast.
Early indications for this winter look very different. Instead of El Nino we have La Nina in the equatorial Pacific. La Nina is the opposite of El Nino, cooler than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. One big difference from last year is that the southern branch of the jet stream will likely be much less active this winter. The result is likely to be a less active southern jet stream hence less precipitation than normal. As far as temperatures this is a little harder but in past La Ninas the northwest U.S. is typically very cold with above average snow and rain. The southern U.S. usually experiences milder winters as cold Arctic air has a harder time pushing south. This doesn't mean it won't get cold or it won't snow this winter. It just means we should see less cold weather and precipitation than a normal winter here in southeast North Carolina.