Winter Weather

Winter Weather Forecast and Outlook

Chief Meteorologist Bob Becker and Meteorologist Jeremy Buckles have put together a Winter Forecast and Outlook for East Tennessee! We look forward to providing you with the most accurate and trusted winter season forecast and outlook for the East Tennessee area including the Great Smoky Mountains. As winter storms threaten the area in November (beginning in the Mountains) through March or April, stay tuned for all of the latest winter weather updates.

East Tennessee Winter Outlook 2014-2015

By Meteorologist Jeremy Buckles:


There are several factors that we are looking at in order to give you a forecast on what to expect for the upcoming winter season. Often times, ENSO (El Niño/La Niña/or Neutral) will give us an important indication of the precipitation and temperature patterns for the upcoming winter. Usually during El Niño, the subtropical jet stream will be stronger than average which will lead to more stormy weather and higher precipitation totals across the southern United States. In a La Niña pattern, the opposite is true. During this type of pattern, the subtropical jet stream is weaker and leads to decreased storminess and less precipitation over the southern United States. This year, we are in a neutral to weak El Niño pattern meaning that temperatures in the tropical Pacific are slightly above normal (but not quite enough to declare an official El Niño).

Another factor that we observe is the PNA pattern (Pacific-North American Pattern). This index provides us with an understanding of the mean position of the jet stream and whether there is meridional (wavy) or zonal (flat) flow. If there is meridional flow, it tells us whether there is troughing over the western or eastern United States. Currently, there seems to be some large-scale troughing over the eastern United States which favors cooler weather across East Tennessee. This will keep temperatures cooler over the eastern U.S. as ridging sets up in the west.

We also look at factors such as the oceanic temperature anomalies in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as well as snow cover anomalies as compared to normal across the Northern Hemisphere. Adding up all of these factors, we can derive the following conclusions.

First, we expect this winter to have above normal precipitation. Second, we expect December temperatures to be near average. Third, for the remainder of winter (January and February), we expect temperature to be below normal. This temperature forecast is also wooly worm approved from the wooly worm coloration patterns that we have observed around East Tennessee. :) Remember that this temperature forecast is based upon expected averages for the entire month. We expect to have periods of warm air and very cold shots of air throughout the winter.

The real question everyone is wondering is “What is the snowfall outlook for this winter?” On average (based upon a 30-year average), Knoxville receives 6.5”, Oak Ridge receives 6.6”, Chattanooga receives 3.9”, the Tri-Cities receive 13.3”, and Crossville receives 9.6”. It is difficult to predict snowfall for a season because it is very dependent upon individual storm systems rather than monthly averages. Snowfall in East Tennessee can also vary significantly with elevation. However, with shots of cold air and precipitation expected to be above normal, we expect above normal snowfall for the region. It just takes a combination of cold air and moisture coming together at the same time for our area to receive the perfect setup for snow. Overall, we expect snow amounts to be slightly above normal with most areas receiving 6″-10″ of snow for the entire winter coming during a few 1″-3″ snowfalls. Could we have some significant snowfalls? That is definitely a possibility, but it is impossible to predict with much certainty in a long-range outlook. Remember that a mild winter can also have significant snowfalls, so a mild start to the season does not doom snow chances.

Continue to follow us for the very latest throughout the winter. We will continue to make adjustments to our outlook as patterns change, and we have a better understanding of what to expect based upon observed conditions in November and December. In order to track the trends and forecasts for local winter weather, be sure to follow us for the very latest on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and on our website at

Let us know your thoughts and theories on the upcoming winter. Share them with us in the comments below!

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