Columbia (WACH) -- There's just something about South Carolina residents that makes them wonder if they'll see snow each upcoming winter.
"I get a kick out of it," says SkyWACH Meteorologist Justin Kier. "People ask me in July if it's going to snow in December! For the record, I have no idea that far out."
The best way to forecast a winter weather event is to understand the overall climatological pattern and factor in local statistics. Last winter featured an active La Nina setup combined with slightly unusual Jet Stream movement. A La Nina, cooler than normal Eastern and Equitoral Pacific Ocean temperatures, traditionally means a calmer pattern with warmer, drier conditions. The pattern doesn't always yield the expected results.
Regardless of the overall setup, moisture must invade while the air and ground temperatures are cold enough. That's a scenario which takes a lot of atmospheric elbow grease to generate for the Southeast. South Carolina snow storms usually requires a very specific low pressure track across central Florida to generate the white stuff. If that route is altered by a mere 40 miles, it will only produce rain for the Midlands.
Local residents vividly remember the various winter weather threats endured last winter. Aside from being just hours away from a white Christmas, the Midlands battled January's wintry mix. The winter before that also generated a mid-season snow storm.
Every winter month has historically recorded snowfall for the area. February is the month that most frequently features winter weather.
Geographically, the counties bordering the Upstate, have the highest statistical chance for snowfall. It's common meteorological sense as the Upstate usually is South Carolina's standard bearer for snow. Residents living in Newberry, Saluda, Fairfield and Kershaw Counties should always closely monitor potential snow makers.
Taking these factors and other personal forecasting preferences into consideration, Kier is forecasting a generally slow winter with more than one snow making system sprinkled into the mix.
"I truly believe we'll see snow," says Kier. "The trick is figuring out how much, where and when. There really is no scientific way to know with any certainty what the numbers will be. This is my best guess."
Kier is forecasting above average numbers for the Northern and Central Midlands. His best guess for a snow making system will came in late Januaury and early February. He's calling for more than two inches across the Northern Midlands and over an inch in the Central Midlands. Kier thinks there will be one to two small events followed by one big event. He reminds everyone that these are guesses and the most important message to take away from this is preparation.
"Don't panic," says Kier. "I don't expect this to pan out. I put these forecasts out into the community because I think it serves as a reminder that residents should always have a severe weather preparedness kit for all types of situations. Remember that a kit can help you in the winter, during a hurricane or even in an earthquake."
You can find more information on storm preparedness at the State's Emergency Management Division's website.
Winter weather is not solely defined as snow. The Midlands can see snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain any given winter. This is why it's important to understand the varying threats presented by the different atmospheric phenomena.