Winter Forecast: Snow and Cold Temperatures May Surprise East Coast in December

3 December 2023

Meteorologists predict a potentially adventurous December with a cold shot and possible snowfall in the East, signaling a departure from earlier forecasts.

If you enjoyed the snowless and balmy winter of 2022-23, you might be in for a surprise this year. Meteorologists are predicting that the meteorological winter, which began on Friday, will bring colder temperatures and even snow to the East Coast. While the overall temperatures for the season are expected to be above normal, December could prove to be an interesting period with a cold shot and potential snowfall by month’s end. Let’s take a closer look at the forecasts and factors influencing this winter’s weather patterns.

December’s Adventurous Weather Predictions

According to Judah Cohen, a polar scientist with Atmospheric and Environmental Research, December could provide an interesting period for the East Coast. Earlier forecasts indicated normal temperatures for the region, but recent updates suggest a potential cold shot next week and the possibility of significant snowfall by the end of the month. While snowfall predictions are notoriously difficult, experts believe that snow totals may fall within the normal range, if not slightly higher than average.

El Niño’s Influence

A strong El Niño has developed over the tropical Pacific, with sea-surface temperatures nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. This warming trend is expected to persist throughout the winter, interacting with the overlying air and affecting the west-to-east winds that carry weather patterns to the Americas. The government’s Climate Prediction Center has stated that El Niño is producing a robust response, favoring normal temperatures in the East Coast and around 80% of the contiguous United States.

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However, it’s important to note that not all El Niños have the same effects. Sarah Kapnick, NOAA’s chief scientist, warns that strong El Niños have been present during both Philadelphia’s snowless winter in 1972-73 and its snowiest winter in 2009-10. While forecasters anticipate an active storm track along the East Coast later in the winter season, the availability of cold air and the behavior of the polar vortex will also play significant roles in determining the severity of coastal storms and snowfall.

Climate Change and Snowfall Patterns

Snowfall patterns can be a noisy signal when it comes to tracking climate change. Year-to-year snow totals in Philadelphia have shown significant variability. However, the current 30-year normal snowfall is almost identical to the average recorded during the first 50 years of snow record-keeping, which began in the winter of 1884-85. The trend of milder winters in Philadelphia aligns with global temperature increases, with five of the warmest winters occurring in the 21st century.

The Uncertainty of Winter Weather

Meteorology and astronomy have their differences, and winter weather often defies the calendar. While the astronomical winter doesn’t begin until the solstice on December 21, meteorologists conventionally divide the season into three-month increments. Snowfall, however, remains uncertain. Some forecasters have made predictions, while others are more cautious. Let’s take a look at some of the outlooks for the winter ahead.

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– AccuWeather: 18 to 24 inches of snow, with potential increases in Reading and Allentown.
– Fox29: 26 inches of snow, with 13 days of snow cover and several smaller and larger snowfalls.
– WeatherBell Analytics: 30 inches of snow, with slightly below-normal temperatures.
– Climate Prediction Center: Favors above-normal temperatures and slightly above-normal precipitation, but does not provide snowfall forecasts.
– Predicts above-normal temperatures with the warmest month in December but avoids specific snowfall predictions.


As winter settles in, meteorologists are predicting a potentially adventurous December for the East Coast. While overall temperatures are expected to be above normal, a cold shot and possible snowfall may surprise residents by the end of the month. Factors such as El Niño, climate change, and the behavior of the polar vortex will all play a role in determining the severity of winter storms and snowfall. Regardless of the forecasts, many are hoping for a return to a more normal snowfall winter. Only time will tell if Mother Nature will deliver.

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