Weather special: Glenn Zimmerman’s long-range winter forecast


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – There are so many factors that go into a Winter Weather outlook. As Chris Higgins pointed out, we are moving to a La Nina flavor of winter. We’ve had these types of winters before and we look to those years for guidance. But there can be different strengths and minor shifts in La Nina patterns. Plus, it only takes one rogue storm to make winter a season to remember, like the Blizzard of 82.   

“Wild Swings” is a phrase that may define this winter. Let’s remember that. And in hiking or cycling there is a phrase called a “false flat:” meaning you think you’re done climbing the hill or mountain, but it’s just a flat stretch, there is more climbing to get to the top.  So, with those two phrases in mind, let’s start with December. 

December 2020: 

We had an early Fall that was very dry and mild. Very little rain from mid-August through mid-October. Then the bottom dropped out, with two to three inches of rain in a couple days, chilly temps, and some wild swings. There is an old winter forecasting rule: whatever happens in October, happens in December. Currently the pattern is dry. November has been a dry one. But if you apply the October Rule to December, then we start the month dry. There could be a couple of days with rain as temps stay mild but nothing major until the end of the month. That’s when an active pattern returns late with the possibility of rain and snow.  Suddenly, it will be winter. The big question is always this: will it be a white Christmas? I think the pattern will favor active weather around Christmas, so I am leaning towards yes, there is a possibility of a white Christmas. But more so, an active week between Christmas and New Years. So, it could be a white New Year’s Day. December starts slow, but we will have average temps, with near average precipitation.  

January 2021: 

You know it, so there is no way to sugar coat it: January is climatologically the coldest month of the year and especially this year. After an active holiday season, January turns cold. Highs, for a stretch, will struggle to get to the freezing mark with lows in the teens. This is a colder month than last January. And let’s watch for more active weather, meaning more snow. I think at some point, the way this pattern sets up this year, we are going to see one, maybe two big snows. One of those could happen during January of 2021… maybe both. It’s an active month, especially the first half. It’s also a cold one with below normal temperatures — pure St Louis Winter! 

February 2021: 

February is like a month of Tuesdays. It’s the shortest month but feels like the longest month. Clouds dominate this month to make any hint of Spring seem eternally far away. This coming February will be a tough one. After an active January, February will calm down and start to warm. I think there will be a few days were temps get into the 50s early in the month. But remember, it is Winter and that phrase “False Flat.” So ,a wild swing will bring temps back down, and that transition will bring rain and snow. This may be another chance of moderate accumulating snow. It will be a chance to practice those good shoveling skills that John Fuller told you about earlier. In the end, February will average out with near normal temps. But that will be an average of extremes…some warmer days, then some colder days. Hold on to your hats. And of course, we know that winter is not really done until March puts its stamp on things. That is for another time and place and the Spring Forecast.  

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