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Winter likely won’t pack a punch

A white Christmas is most likely not on the radar this year.

The first day of winter, Dec. 22, is right around the corner, and experts believe it will be a normal winter season for Lafayette County and northern Mississippi.

Zach Maye, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, said the area is forecast to see near-average temperatures and near to just above average precipitation from December through February.

“We’re in an El Niño year, and its actually one of the strongest El Niño events on record,” he said. “We’re not expecting anything excessively cold or warm on average. There may be some cold snaps at times and may be some warmer than normal temperatures.”

The El Niño effect means there are warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures over the Pacific Ocean. So the warmer water alters the jet stream, which then alters the longer-term climate, Maye said.

“It moves the jet stream further to the south, and that has an effect on our climate in the Mid-South,” he said. The Mid-South will be stuck in between warmer temperatures to the north and cooler temperatures than normal to the south.

Another effect of the particular weather pattern we’re in is it reduces the possibility of a white Christmas.

“In terms of snowfall, typically during strong El Niños around here, we don’t tend to get as much as normal,” Maye said. “El Niño prohibits bigger snowstorms. Not to rule out any one event or to say we won’t see any at all, but with an El Niño we won’t see excessive amounts.”

Maye said the National Weather Service has done a lot of research to determine this general outlook for the winter and predict patterns. He said based on what they’ve seen, this winter will have strong resemblance to winters in 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98.

“The current El Niño is very similar to the ’97-’98 event,” he said in terms of the system’s strength.

If averages are what to expect, Maye said the Lafayette County region can look for about 6.72 inches of rain in December; 4.80 in January and 5.34 in February.

Temperature wise, Maye said the area averages 43.1 degrees in December, 40.5 in January and 44.6 in February.

Mississippi’s state climatologist, Mike Brown, agreed with the NWS and said it appears December will “be a bit warmer and wetter than normal, with January and February having close to normal temperatures and precipitation.”