Dave Murray’s Long Range Winter Forecast 2011-2012

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By Chief Meteorologist Dave Murray FOX2now.com
(KTVI – FOX2now.com)—

Fall is typically a wonderful time of year in and around St. Louis. With limited stormy weather, it is a dry time with a few temperature swings. Summer slowly lets go and the temperatures fall off, getting us ready for the winter season.  The winter forecast is always the toughest. Not that any of the seasons are easy, but winter brings an extra challenge and a lot more interest.

December  2011

This is a double dip la Niña winter.  La Niña is a cooling of the Pacific Ocean waters that has been in play since last winter. It eased a little over the summer but is now in full force and will be the major player this winter, especially in the month of December. It looks like a fast and furious month. Temperatures will be cold, well below average, taking the told on the heating bills and the car batteries. Fair warning: have your heating systems and cars checked out now. Record lows are always tough and in December most of the records are below zero. Yes it will be cold, but I don't see records being set this December. However there will be many days when highs hold in the 30's and a few days when high temperatures will hold in the 20's. That’s pretty impressive.

I bet with that temperature forecast the snow bunnies have their ears high and open. I’m watching two types of storms, each with the shot of rain, ice and snow. First the clippers, the northern systems. Look for 2-3 of these storms to bring some light snow.  But the hard core track this December will be the classic winter storm track for us. Storms that come out of the Texas panhandle then tracking through Arkansas and into the Ohio valley. I see 3 maybe 4 systems like this. These storms bring rain and ice ahead of the storm, then snow on the backside. Each one is showing signs of a pretty good accumulating snow. Snowfall and rainfall will be above average for the month. Have the shovels ready and schools be prepared to use a few snow days.

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The December forecast also brings the big forecast: is it a white or green Christmas?  After hearing my ideas for December, I think you know were I’m headed with this. Last Christmas we hit the idea of snow with an impressive snow Christmas Eve into Christmas Day. And once again I’m expecting at least snow on the ground this holiday. Plan for a white Christmas.

Things to look for in December:

  • Great horned owls begin courting
  • Easy to spot the winter constellation Orion
  • Bald eagles start to arrive in good numbers

December 2011 Highlights:

  • Cold weather in place much of the month...no records but temps well below average
  • A very active storm pattern...clippers and southern lows
  • Plenty of rain, ice and snow...a white Christmas

January 2012

January is a tough winter's month for the St. Louis area. The holidays are over. The days are short and the nights are long.  It’s a month that can bring some wild winter weather with rain, ice and snow. But it is also a month that can bring a break with the well known January Thaw, a form of a mid-winter's break. But if the thaw does not set in, January is the prime time for cabin fever.

The la Niña weather pattern is in full force and that means winter will be in full force. However, things should ease slightly in January. Don't let the winter guard down. I see those snow bunnies looking happy again. It will be another cold month but not quite as tough as the month of December. Temperatures will once again run below average. I don't see records, but the heating systems will be working overtime once again.  Like last year, I just don't see a January thaw. Temperatures may ease a little the third week of the month but not enough to call it a true January Thaw.

The storm track is still alive and well but storms don’t look as frequent and not as intense as the month of December. I don't see much in the way of clipper systems, but I do see 1 or 2 strong southern track low pressure systems. They always mean a variety of weather depending on the track. For this long-term, expect rain and ice with all snow on the backside of each storm as they pull into the Ohio Valley. Exactly where these storms track is always a fun but tricky forecast.

Things to look for in January:

  • Red-tailed hawks are perched along the highways
  • Watch for chickadees feeding up and down trees
  • Beavers begin breeding this month

January 2012 Highlights:

  • Cold weather in place much of the month...no records but cold
  • A January Thaw will be tough to come by
  • Storm track remains active…1 or 2 intense systems

February 2012

I'm a little concerned about the month of February because my forecast is all tied to the la Niña pattern. Why a concern? I'm thinking the pattern will start to fade for the end game of the winter season. But if it doesn't, my forecast will be in trouble. So we start the month of February with that disclaimer. But I have made up my mind and as you know i like to stick to my guns.

So what does a fading la Niña mean for the month? Let’s start the month off like the rest of the winter with cold air still in control.  The cold should stay in control for the first 10 days of the month. Keep bundled up, keep the pets warm, and save a little more for the heating bills. However, by the middle of the month there look to be a big-time flip in the temperature. Now it’s still winter, but temps will ease and I would not be surprised to see some readings in the 60's maybe even in the 70's for the last half of the month. Finally breaking the back of winter, but don't tell that to spring.

With the fading la Niña and the expected temperature flip I 'm thinking we get out of the hard core storm track that will have controlled the winter up to this point. So we lose the active southern track resulting in limited rain and limited snow. But it’s not bone dry by any means and I feel we will be looking at the shot at two snows in February. We have to watch the storm system carefully because late winter snows can sneak up and bite you. The best shot of snow will be in the first half of the month. Then I’m leaning toward rain the second half of the month.

Things to looks for in February:

  • Red flower buds of the silver maples swell with warmth
  • Chickadees begin to sing...first bird song
  • Robins start to return in large flocks

February 2012 Highlights:

  • Fading la Niña controls the month...getting a break from steady winter
  • Cold controls first half of the month then a spring-like snap back the second half
  • Limited rain and snow...best shot at snow during the first 10 days

So it looks like a rather active winter season especially for the first two months. The run to the holidays could be a tough run of weather with cold temperatures and rain, ice and snow. I think the first half of the winter will be overloaded then things will slowly calm down. But look for above average snow and enough cold to keep your attention and the heating bills high. Though the winter will ease toward the end, don't get your hopes up for the spring. But that’s for another long range forecast.

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