What will come true for winter ’21-’22 – The WANE Winter Outlook


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Every year as winter nears, the Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team puts together its official winter weather outlook for the season that’s ahead. In the meteorological world, winter runs from December 1 through February 28 (or 29). This allows winter data to be more easily compared year-to-year. The dates of the winter solstice (first day of astronomical winter) and vernal equinox (first day of astronomical spring) can change slightly year-to-year, throwing data analysis off.

Officially recognized weather data for the city of Fort Wayne exists back through 1897. Some unofficial observations exist prior, but the accuracy of those has not been verified. Out of the more than 120 years of data, we’ve had temperatures spanning from -24° to as high as 73° during the December/January/February timeframe

While no winter is ever “typical”, the Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team confirms the following values as averages for the city of Fort Wayne over the past 3 decades (1991-2020).

Daily Average Temperature: 28.4°
Average Precipitation (Rain+Snow+Ice) 7.07″
Average Annual Snowfall 33.6″

New averages are calculated every 10 years by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The most recent 30-year period used to produce the current average values is 1991-2020. So, in calculating this year’s winter outlook, the Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team had new data to reference. In comparison to our previous averages from 1981-2010. we’re a degree warmer over the 30-year stretch, which is significant, exactly even on total precipitation (December/January/February rain+liquid equivalent of snow and ice), but only just slightly more snowy going from 33.5″ on average in the old dataset to 33.6″ for the annual average in the new dataset.

The driving force of our winter pattern for 2021-22 is a phenomenon called La Niña. This is where stronger than usual trade winds at the equator move warm water to the west allowing colder water from below to rise to the surface. While this only occurs at the equator, it has a major impact on jet streams and weather patterns around the globe.

While knowing La Niña conditions are currently present gives us a general weather set-up for the winter season ahead, every La Niña winter can produce varying conditions.

Annual snowfall numbers from past years with La Niña winters, do not show a definitive trend. Out of the 10 most recent La Niña years. 3 winters were above average in snowfall, 4 were below average, and 3 were near average.

A clearer trend shows up when analyzing temperatures. Only 1 year of the 10 similar years had above average winter temperatures, 3 were below average, and 6 were near average.

This same signal for near average temps also shows up in a separate statistical analysis from the National Weather Service. That data says the statement that there is an increased probability of winter temperatures being near average is a statement that is true 90 out of 100 times, given the La Niña outlook this year.
So, assuming these near average temps, like we experienced in the La Niña winters of last year and 2017-18, we believe snowfall will be near or below average levels.

Taking this historical data into account, our official Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team Winter Outlook calls for December/January/February temperatures near average, total precipitation above average, but annual snowfall near or below average.

As far as total precipitation across December/January/February, including rain and the liquid equivalent of snow and ice, the Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team believes the jet stream position brought by the La Niña pattern, will result in above average total precipitation for the season because a number of weather systems, many small, but some big, will be primed to track right over us to allow the precipitation to add up. We’ve already seen this pattern start to play out pre-winter, in November, with a couple wintry systems that traveled right our way from the northwest. This jet stream setup has the potential of steering systems with Gulf of Mexico moisture into northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio, too. If this happens, we could easily see such moisture-rich systems add significant amounts to our precip totals. Despite the fact that only 2 recent La Niña years have generated above average precipitation, we feel confident in our forecast at this time.

Updates will be posted here and given on WANE 15, if our forecast changes as winter progresses.

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