Color-coded map of USA showing warming/cooling trends for this fall.

Drier than normal conditions are predicted for North Georgia this winter.

I hope all of you enjoyed the beautiful fall color this year. As we begin our transition to winter, there is a lot of speculation as to what we will see. I can tell you what we know for sure.

We are going to have a strong El Niño. I know that may sound ominous. However, a strong El Niño more often than not, means less of an impact here in Georgia.

So what is El Niño? El Niño is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, including the area off the Pacific coast of South America.

The ocean warming affects the wind and weather patterns around the world. This is what we usually expect to see here in the United States. As you can see on the accompanying map, drier weather is expected this winter across north Georgia. We’ve already seen that drier-than-normal weather late this summer and most of this fall. Rainfall has been pretty scarce and that dry pattern is expected to remain.

The temperature forecast, however, remains a bit of a challenge, as the oceans have been extraordinarily warm on their own. What we usually see are cooler temperatures here. The climate scientists at NOAA aren’t so sure. Here’s the updated winter outlook from NOAA: We have a 50/50 chance of above or below average temperatures.

We also have a lot of fun when science can’t make a prediction by looking at nature. Our friend, the woolly bear caterpillar says we’re going to have a mild winter. The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest. If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe. If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold.

If we look back at the last couple of strong El Niño years, 1998-99 we had 6/10ths of an inch of snow that winter. Our most recent strong El Niño winter was 2015-16 where we had 3/10ths of an inch of snow. Our average snow is 2.9 inches in Atlanta.

Looks like we start cold and then warm, at least to me.

Enjoy your November. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Graphic: courtesy of NOAA