Dry winter predicted


January 6th, 2011

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Last year's winter in Nebraska was one of the snowiest on record (Photo courtesy Ammodramus, Wikimedia Commons)

Lincoln, NE – What a difference a year makes. Mike Tobias reports on why Nebraska is experiencing a mostly dry winter after record-breaking snow last year.

A year ago, Nebraska was covered with a thick blanket of snow, thanks to several major pre-January storms and the snowiest December on record. A year later: lots of bare ground and one of the lowest snowfall winters on record at this point in the season. University of Nebraska-Lincoln climatologist Ken Dewey said these trends are typical.

“So we have these extremes. It’s actually more likely when you hit an extreme that it’s not going to be anywhere near that the next time.”

The science behind the trend this winter involves a strong La Nina. This is an ocean and atmosphere situation we’re currently experiencing that usually results in extreme temperature swings.

The advantage of a La Nina winter for Nebraska, Dewey said, is the moisture doesn’t get here.

“We’re having warm, dry air from the southwest, and if we don’t have that then we get cold, relatively dry air from the arctic and we get these light snowfalls.”

“It’s not like it’s not going to snow. It’s going to snow,” he added. “But we’re just not going to have those conditions that we did last year where we’re getting a foot of snow at a time and then incredible wind speeds drifting in the highways, making transportation virtually impossible.”

Dewey said some of that snow is coming in the next few days, along with a swing back to some colder temperatures. But he believes we’re locked into this La Nina pattern for the winter, which is good news, unless you like breaking snowfall records.

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