Storm Team: El Niño should bring more typical winter season

Storm Team: El Niño should bring more typical winter season

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Last year, the winter weather left much to be desired. This year, however, more snow could be seen across the winter months.

A weak El Niño pattern seems to be developing. El Niño is a large area of warmer than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can shift the jet stream pattern in the United States.

This year, sea surface temperatures have shown to be warmer than average. With the polar jet stream usually residing well to the north, across Canada, arctic air gets trapped across the Hudson Bay region.

At the same time, the upper plains and northwest United States cut off the coldest air and see warmer-than-average temperatures.

In warmer regions, like southern California and Florida, the sub-tropical jet stream forms another barrier, bringing a cooler and wetter winter.

In East Tennessee, this type of weather pattern brings a more typical winter season. El Niño looks to be a little weaker this year, but will still bring an average winter season to the region.

Another factor that will determine this year's winter season is the various elevations that define the East and Middle Tennessee's terrain.

In the valley, some of the lowest elevations see the least snowfall, but chilly temperatures still reign in the January, the coldest month, with an average low of 29 degrees.

Moving higher, places like Gatlinburg will have colder temperatures, but the coldest month remains January with average lows approaching 28 degrees. On the plateau, in places like Crossville, the elevation reaches 2,000 feet, but January is still the coldest month with an average low of 27 degrees.

Undoubtedly, some of the area's coldest points exist in the Great Smoky Mountains. Peaks like Clingman's Dome and Mount LeConte have their coldest month in February. Average lows during this time tend to drop to only 18 degrees.

Even with predictable patterns, like El Niño and elevation changes, the weather can still be tough to predict. But these models can help to predict a winter trend.

In the northern valley, expect snowfall from six to nine inches, however do not expect that amount of snow to come down all at one time. A more likely scenario would be two to three inches at a time.

On the plateau, expect snowfall of around 12 to 15 inches, more likely around some of the higher peaks, near the Virginia and Kentucky borders.

The best chances for large amounts of snow will be in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains. Snowfall there may climb in between 80 and 90 inches. Places with elevations of about 4,000 feet could see snow falling at one to two feet at a time.

While any snowfall could lead to dangerous travel, some of the most dangerous conditions result from ice storms that strike the area from time to time.

So all in all, expect a more typical winter season most East Tennesseans are accustomed to enjoying.

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