With the recent cold snaps, and another blast of cooler weather on the way, lots of folks are asking... just how bad is this winter going to be for Hampton Roads?

While we've already had one light brush with wintry precipitation, the best action so far this season in Norfolk has been in the Ice Palace at MacArthur Center. But will these kids get to play in the real stuff?

Lets start with a look at the water off the coast of Peru. Abnormal sea surface temperatures signal winter weather trends. The problem right now... the water temperatures along the equator are near normal. No El Nino. No La Nina.

Over the North Atlantic, sea surface temperatures, and air pressure often determine our winter weather pattern.

Big pressure differences between low pressure near Iceland and high pressure near the Azores cranks up the polar vortex and jet stream. Arctic air stays 'pinned up' well to our north, and we get quick moving systems. It is milder, and we are more likely to get showers with occasional mixed precipitation.

When the polar vortex is weaker, colder air can spill southward over the eastern United States and we stand much better chances getting snow.

These patterns can change several times over the winter, so predictions are risky

But the amount of Siberian snow in October might tip Old Man Winter's hand.

Historically, when the snow cover is extensive, we have better chances for cold and snow. This year the was a lot of snow in October!

But there is a catch...

The rate at which that the snow spread was slower than normal. And when that has happened, we typically have had milder winters, and less opportunity for snow. We will have to see which wins out.

So here's what I think about the upcoming season...

December may bring more cold air outbreaks, with a chance of early season snow.

Look for occasional, fast moving storm systems to pass by, we may have chances for wintry mix, but we should see nice warm ups in between systems.

And a possible trend towards El Nino by late winter or spring hints at potentially milder conditions late in the season.

It is a tough season to forecast, but I'll have my shovels ready, just in case. And if we don't see anything significant? It's always fun at the Ice Palace at MacArthur Center!

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