While December 1 typically marks the first day of meteorological winter, there hasn’t been too much winter weather across the country recently. While the Big Island of Hawaii saw accumulating snow to end the month of November, much of the continental United States is seeing below normal snowfall. Forecast models, such as the American GFS computer forecast model, continue to lack a signal showcasing any looming snowstorm threat on the horizon.
December 1 marks the arrival of the 2020-2021 Meteorological Winter Season. Meteorological winter is a three month period that runs through to the end of February. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the coldest three month period of the year. Meteorological Winter is different from Astronomical Winter, which is based on when the sun reaches the most southern point on the globe, the Tropic of Capricorn. If you are right on the Tropic of Capricorn at 12 noon on the first day of Astronomical Winter, the sun will be directly overhead. This year, that date is Monday, December 21. While winter is starting in the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere. The word “winter” comes from the Germanic “wintar” which in turn is derived from the root wed meaning ‘wet’ or water’, and so signifying a wet season. In Anglo-Saxon cultures, years were counted by the winters, so a person could be said to be “2 winters old”.
While the calendar may say meteorological winter is here, wintry weather won’t be too visible across the country any time soon. While some Pacific storm systems will bring needed rain and higher elevation snow to portions of the west in the coming days, it will only put a dent in the rain and snow droughts that exist there.
While there will be precipitation events in the west, the storm track is likely to drive areas of low pressure from the west north into Canada by way of the Great Lakes. With such a storm track, colder air is locked in Canada and unable to come to the northeast and east coasts, resulting in a a lack of snowstorms there. Computer forecast guidance used by meteorologists to forecast the weather shows there may not be any chance in the overall pattern for at least the next two weeks.
Lack of snow, and in many cases, cold, could hurt the ski industry in both the Rockies and New England. According to Statista, the ski and snowboarding industry is a vital one to many locations around the U.S.; in 2019, the industry generated a record $3.75 billion. With the impacts from the pandemic, that fell to $2.53 billion in 2020. This year, the market is forecast to be $3.47 billion –a number that’ll be tough to meet if snow doesn’t fall in earnest at ski resorts around the country over the next 4 weeks.