Winter 2021: Was technically a ‘normal’ winter

Winter forecasting is not something anyone would describe as easy. Especially trying to sum up what winter will be, from a snapshot in early November. That being said, I will take a little moment to brag, Winter Outlook 2021: A rare ‘normal’ winter, did very well.

Snowfall was very close to normal for December through February, and we had our first night below zero in over two years. The setup for a colder and snowier winter, than the last few years verified.

There’s more to this story however. Through the end of January there was no winter, snowfall was a foot below normal and most days up until that point had highs above freezing, then February happened.

We crammed almost all of winter into about two weeks, with 16 days in-a-row below freezing and over 20 inches of snow. Make-or-break February's are nothing new, in fact they are always the biggest IF, in a seasonal forecast published in November. This February, MADE our forecast. It was likely the polar vortex would get wonky at some point, it was hard to say when and how long, but it did, mid-February. 

There is some skill and luck in seasonal outlooks. You can look at long and short term trends, and even past years with similar setups. I can tell you the biggest weight in my forecast, climate change!

The setup for this year, favored colder and likely snowier weather. But winter is warming, getting squeezed on both ends, as fall lasts longer and spring starts earlier. It’s hard to have more snow when temperatures are above freezing. 

South Bend is not alone, in fact it’s a rare area buffered by Lake Michigan that still gets more snow and cold than much of the country. We will still have bouts of cold and snow, but they may be more confined to a harsh two weeks, like we saw this year and less throughout the season. Cold and snowy years will be what a ‘normal’ winter was 20 years ago, and warm years will be near record setting. What was predicted by climate change is happening. 

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