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Chief Meteorologist Dan Threlkeld's winter weather outlook

Snow covers Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, towards the tail end of a long stretch of historically cold winter weather. (KTUL photo/ Darold Oniwa)
Snow covers Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, towards the tail end of a long stretch of historically cold winter weather. (KTUL photo/ Darold Oniwa)
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We’ve had some pretty severe winters recently.


Last winter, 12 inches of snow fell, and the year before we shoveled 15.8 inches but only 2.9 inches fell in the winter of 2018.

Tulsa's average is 8.7 inches per year and the most snow ever recorded for one winter was 26.1 inches during the winter season of 2010.

Predicting what winter will bring has changed.


Long before there was satellite and radar, people would go into nature to try to figure out what is going on. They would look at the hair on the horses, they would see how thick the bark was on the trees. They would even look at the squirrels to see if the tail was really bushy and see if they were active.

All those things were done to try to predict what type of winter to expect.

Folklore also includes a woolly bear caterpillar — a wide black stripe means a bad winter but a wide brown stripe means a more mild winter.

Some swear by the persimmon seeds. A fork shape means a mild winter. A knife shape foretells a winter with biting cold and winds that “cut like a knife,” and a spoon shape says you can expect a lot of snow.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is vague, but it shows us having a “cold and snowy” winter this year. A wintery mix before Thanksgiving and a big cold snap just before Christmas.


What does science say?

For long-range forecasts, we often look to the Climate Prediction Center, but this winter, they are of little help.

Flip a coin, there are equal chances for either above or below normal temperatures. For moisture, other than southwest Oklahoma, again equal changes for more snow and rain or less.

Currently, we are in a La Nina pattern. Right now, we have cold water off the coast of Peru. During La Nina winters, it’s typical for the southern United States to be warmer and drier. This will be our third winter in a row in this pattern.

"During La Nina, we often see warmer and drier conditions in the far southern U.S. and wetter conditions across the Ohio Valley. We are in that kind of sweet spot transition zone between those two," Nicole McGavock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

That’s what these meteorologists tracked during the past two winters. In 2020, we had below normal temperatures, and above normal precipitation, but in the winter of 2021, we had above normal temperatures, near normal rain, and above normal snow.

Lastly, our hot and dry summer does NOT necessarily mean a warm and dry winter.


Expect some very cold days, but overall, warmer than normal.

We will have some snow and ice, but less than last winter and near normal snow, and two ice events — one major and a minor one.

I’m expecting a total of 10 inches of snow between November and February.

No matter what happens this winter, know the NewsChannel 8 weather team will be here to keep you ahead of the storm and keep your family safe.


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