By Nathan Ham
The annual Winter Fearless Forecast from RaysWeather.com was officially posted online Saturday, making way for an anxious crowd of winter enthusiasts to begin the debate on just how much snow will fall in the High Country.
Ray Russell’s forecast predicts that Boone will see approximately 33 inches of snow, which is 10 percent less than the average long-term snow total. The forecast also predicts temperatures will be near the seasonal average and that the bulk of the winter precipitation will fall from mid-November to the end of January. Winter is predicted to be milder by late February and into March.
As always, Russell advises readers to not put too much stock into long-range forecasts and that this prediction just so happens to be their scientific rationale based on historic trends and current weather models.
Where the Data Comes From
Taking a look at this year’s prediction, the meteorologists at RaysWeather.com studied the current El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) trends and climate change data.
The current data suggest that the ENSO trend is currently neutral and will remain that way through the winter, meaning no extreme El Nino conditions (warmer-than-average surface water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific) and no extreme La Nina conditions (cooler-than-average surface water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific). This likely trends toward an average snowfall amount for the High Country.
When taking climate change into account, the data provided in the forecast shows that snowfall accumulation has taken a dip since the 1980s.
“Any prudent seasonal forecast must lean toward warmer and less snow compared to long-term averages because of climate change,” the forecast says.
How Last Year’s Forecast Held Up
In the 2018-19 Fearless Forecast, snow totals were spot on for some areas and off the mark in others. The forecast predicted a colder-than-average winter, however, temperatures ended up settling in with a warmer-than-average winter.
Six locations had snowfall measurements within two inches of the forecasted amount. Higher elevations received much less snowfall than predicted while foothill areas received more snow than predicted and predictions for lower mountain areas were the closest on average.
Asheville: Forecast – 16 inches, Actual – 8 inches
Banner Elk: Forecast – 50 inches, Actual – 27 inches
Beech Mountain: Forecast – 100 inches, Actual – 52 inches
Boone: Forecast – 42 inches, Actual – 32 inches
Galax, Virginia: Forecast – 24 inches, Actual – 24 inches
Hendersonville: Forecast – 11 inches, Actual – 11 inches
Hickory: Forecast – 6 inches, Actual – 13 inches
Independence, Virginia: Forecast – 23 inches, Actual – 25 inches
Jefferson/West Jefferson: Forecast – 24 inches, Actual – 22 inches
Lenoir: Forecast – 7 inches, Actual – 16 inches
Morganton: Forecast – 7 inches, Actual – 14 inches
Mount Airy: Forecast – 12 inches, Actual – 14 inches
Old Ford: Forecast – 8 inches, Actual – 16 inches
Sparta: Forecast – 23 inches, Actual – 19 inches
Spruce Pine: Forecast – 24 inches, Actual – 19 inches
Sugar Mountain: Forecast – 100 inches, Actual – 67 inches
Waynesville: Forecast – 17 inches, Actual – 11 inches
Wilkesboro/North Wilkesboro: Forecast – 9 inches, Actual – 18 inches
Wytheville, Virginia: Forecast – 25 inches, Actual – 23 inches
Finally, the 2019-20 Snowfall Predictions
Asheville: 12 inches
Banner Elk: 39 inches
Beech Mountain: 78 inches
Boone: 33 inches
Galax: 18 inches
Hendersonville: 9 inches
Hickory: 5 inches
Independence: 18 inches
Jefferson/West Jefferson: 19 inches
Lenoir: 6 inches
Morganton: 6 inches
Mount Airy: 9 inches
Old Fort: 6 inches
Sparta: 18 inches
Spruce Pine: 19 inches
Sugar Mountain: 78 inches
Waynesville: 14 inches
Wilkesboro/North Wilkesboro: 7 inches
Wytheville: 20 inches