Might it snow in North Carolina in November?

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Every time it thunders in the winter, at least three people feel the need to remind me of the old wives’ tale that it means snow within a week. Of course, then I feel the need to remind them all it really means is we’re in an active weather pattern, and it might snow within a week anyway because it’s winter. There is some statistical evidence showing snow is slightly more likely after thunder in winter, but I don’t hang my hat on it as a forecaster.

Meteorological winter starts on December 1 and runs through the end of February. Astronomical winter starts on the winter solstice, which is December 21. So, either way you look at the seasons, November is late fall.

In North Carolina, November tends to bring moderately cooler temperatures and some wild swings in the weather. For example, today’s 30-year (1981-2010) average high temperature is 68 degrees, and the average low is 44 degrees. However, the record high on November 4 is 84 degrees and was set in 1946, and the record low is 25 degrees set in 1966.

Typically, precipitation in November falls as rain. Occasionally, that rain comes with high straight-line winds and tornadoes. Rarely does the precipitation fall as snow, sleet or freezing rain, but it has happened.

There are two November events on record in the State Climate Office’s Winter Storm Database. The first was a two-storm event that was combined into one report and took place from November 9 through November 12, 1968. Between a half-inch and 1.5 inches of total snowfall was reported in Wake County during those dates.

The second earliest snowfall reported in Wake County happened November 18-19, 2000. Up to two inches of snow accumulation on grassy surfaces were reported across the area with that one.

What about this year?

Over the next two weeks, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting above-average chances for cooler-than-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation. For one run of the GFS this morning, I noticed a slight chance of snow early on the morning of Tuesday, November 13. So, my answer is that’s it’s possible. It doesn’t seem very probable at this writing, though, because the very next model run took the snow line a little farther north to our border counties.

Climatology is working against us, but I probably don’t need to remind anyone that climatology was against Florence hitting our coast. Our historical record is relatively short when it comes to these things, and just because it doesn’t happen often doesn’t mean it can’t happen next week. It will be interesting to watch as the day approaches.

forecast map

One version of the GFS forecast model run on November 5, 2018, shows the potential for snow in north-central North Carolina early on November 13.