Chris Bailey’s winter forecast: Will this be our third brutal winter in a row?

Icicles clung to the street signs for Snow Road and Winter Garden Drive in Lexington in February 2014.
Icicles clung to the street signs for Snow Road and Winter Garden Drive in Lexington in February 2014.

The past two winters in Kentucky have been about as harsh as they come.

From historic cold to historic snowstorms, we had it all. Can we make it three years in a row with brutal winters? That hasn’t happened here since the late 1970s, but it has an outside chance of happening with this winter.

Let me be up front and clear about something: At this time, I don’t think this winter will be as bad as the past two winters. That doesn’t mean I’m right about that, but I see several factors working against it.

The two main players I’m watching this winter are both in the Pacific Ocean. The first is a raging El Niño.

To my eyes, this El Niño is in a class all its own, and that makes for a difficult forecast.

A warm pool of water off the West Coast has been there since fall 2013. That has been the driving force to our back-to-back harsh winters, but El Niño might mute some of the impact this winter. “Might” is the key word.

Here’s my month-by-month breakdown:

▪ December: Slightly above-normal temperatures; near-normal snowfall.

▪ January: Near-normal temperatures; slightly above-normal snow.

▪ February: Much colder than normal; highest snowfall totals.

As you can clearly see, I’m expecting another winter that’s backloaded with the most likely chance for snow and cold.

The first half of winter from December into early January is likely to be dominated by a lot of back and forth with the temperatures. Some very mild days and some very cold days will try to balance one another out during this time. Snowfall should be about normal.

The period from mid-January through early March is likely to see the coldest weather relative to normal, and the most snow.

One thing to watch for this winter is an increased chance for a wind-driven winter storm.

So what does all this mean for snowfall? The numbers are likely to be much lower than last winter, but they should be normal to a little above normal.

All it takes is for one storm to bust the numbers.

Here’s hoping you get all the cold and snow your heart desires!

Read the complete winter forecast

Find the complete winter forecast by WKYT chief meteorologist Chris Bailey on his Kentucky weather blog:

2015-16 winter forecast highlights

  • Mild and cold spells in the first half.
  • Very cold in the second half.
  • Heaviest snows in late winter.