COLUMBIA, Mo. — While there’s never a dull moment when it comes to long-term forecasting, Tony Lupo doesn’t foresee any wild weather swings during the upcoming winter months in mid-Missouri. Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) School of Natural Resources (SNR), said the weather shouldn’t stray too far from last year’s winter, although it may be a tad bit cooler.
“December has definitely started off on the warm side of normal, but I think as we move forward, our temperatures will move to cooler than average based on La Niña,” Lupo said. “We are predicting right around 15 inches of snow, which is really close to last year’s totals.
“We’re really predicting almost a repeat of last winter, especially in terms of precipitation. I believe our temperatures will be cooler, however.”
Lupo said that last year’s winter temperatures, in December (2019), January and February (2020), were actually nearly 4 degrees above normal. Mid-Missouri also recorded 18 inches of snow and almost seven inches of rain.
“There have only been a handful of years like last year,” Lupo said. “It’s really rare to have well above normal temperatures and still get above normal snow. It doesn’t happen often in mid-Missouri.”
The prediction of cooler winter temperatures follows a summer and fall that saw warmer than average temperatures across the area. Lupo said his models showed that uptick in temperatures.
“This summer was really unique in that we didn’t experience those extremely hot days, where temperatures got around 100 degrees, but the low temperatures were above normal,” Lupo said. “With that combination, we actually saw warmer than average temperatures. They weren’t too high above normal, but there was an increase.”
Lupo said the zonal pattern, where the Jetstream moves more west to east pushing air from the Pacific Ocean rather than Canada, was the cause of the warmer days. The first week of November saw some of the warmest November days on record.
“That week of November made me a bit nervous about my upcoming long-term prediction, but I’m going to stick to my guns,” Lupo said. “Our forecast is based on a weakening El Niño and the transition to La Niña.”
The warm start to November was part of some unusual fall weather in 2020. Mid-October saw an extremely early, recordable snowfall.
“We’ve been seeing some unusual ups and downs over the past few years,” Lupo said. “This year has obviously been no different.”
With potential winter weather approaching, Lupo added that it’s important to be prepared, especially in regards to vehicles.
“It’s always good to be ready for when winter weather strikes,” Lupo said. “Having a sandbag in the back of your car adds weight, and can be used if you’re stuck on the ice. It’s also important to have a snow shovel, blankets and an extra phone charger, just in case.”
And while Lupo did mention that there would be plenty of snow this winter, his forecast doesn’t include any snow on Christmas day.
“Anything can obviously happen, but I think most of our snowfall will come in 2021,” Lupo said.
— University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
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