UPPER COUNTRY – Dry, hot weather was the cause of a recent wave of brush and forest fires in western North Carolina, and according to National Weather Service regional meteorologists stationed in Blacksburg, Virginia, this weather is likely to persist through the winter season.
While some of the moisture necessary to avoid extremely dry conditions that make forest fires more likely has been recovered, the burning ban implemented by the North Carolina Forest Service on November 29 is in effect until see you again on December 6.
Erik Taylor, a meteorologist at NWS Blacksburg, said November was the 4th driest month on record since 1980, but only the warmest November 21st, in the middle of the pack compared to the other 40 November on record.
âWe didn’t see too much rain from September through November,â Taylor said. In Boone, about 12.35 inches of rain fell during this time. Throughout the year, the majority of the rains fell during the fall months.
La NiÃ±a, a periodic weather pattern that occurs every few years, is one of the factors causing warmer temperatures in the High Country, Taylor said.
âLa NiÃ±a, basically a cooler counterpart of what is called El NiÃ±o. It’s just when the hotter water is pushed to Asia and the cooler water is pushed to South America, which can change the jet stream here in the United States pushing it further to the north, âTaylor said.
When the jet stream is pushed further north, it usually means less than normal precipitation, as the storm track is also further north. Warmer temperatures are also observed in this scenario as the cold air also follows the northern path of the storm.
Currently, Taylor said La NiÃ±a appears to be weak to moderate, which would suggest above normal temperatures and drier conditions as the storm’s track is forced further into the Ohio River Valley. , limiting the risk of heavy rains or snow across the Haut Pays region.
âIt’s painting with a wide brush,â Taylor said. “It is not excluded that we may witness some kind of heavy rain or snow during the winter months, but a lot of things should come together.”
One or two big storms could bring the region’s precipitation back to average or above average, according to Taylor.
Considering the possibility of wildfires, Taylor said beyond the dry weather, winds in the mountains play an important role.
Especially in the higher elevation areas of the High Country, like Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain, and some of the higher places in Ashe County, elevation is key to the wind pattern, Taylor said.
Right now there is an air funnel pattern along these mountain limits where High Country residents will have a good two or three days, then a relatively dry front passes through, not much precipitation with some wind behind a pressure gradient.
This difference in gradient creates gusty winds every other day from the north, and especially with the altitude of the mountain, there is a small lift which makes the conditions a bit windier during the winter months, according to Taylor.
From December 5-11, NWS is celebrating Winter Weather Awareness Week, and although this winter may be milder than normal in the High Country, winter weather is still possible and a part of mountain life. To learn more about winter preparation, visit weather.gov/ctp/WinterWeatherAwarenessWeek.
Marisa Mecke is a Report for America Corps member for Mountain Times Publications. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.