Dry, warm winter likely in South Carolina as La Niña continues for third consecutive year
The winter months tend to be the driest months of the year in the state and this can be exacerbated during a La Niña winter. Drought conditions are expected to develop in the Savannah River Valley, with drought conditions worsening across portions of the Upstate.
La Niña is expected to lead to another dry winter in South Carolina for the third consecutive year.
For only the third time since record-keeping began in the late 1800s, a "triple dip" La Niña event is expected according to the latest outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center. This occurs when La Niña continues for three consecutive years and has significant implications for weather patterns across the United States and in the Palmetto State. La Niña develops as cold water in the equatorial East Pacific is brought to the surface. This results in a jet stream that is more likely to remain north of the Southeast, leading to fewer precipitation events.
The winter months tend to be the driest months of the year in the state and this can be exacerbated during a La Niña winter. Drought conditions are expected to develop in the Savannah River Valley, with drought conditions worsening across portions of the Upstate. Areas of moderate drought are already in place in the Upstate along I-85 according to the most recent update from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
This announcement of a continued La Niña winter comes as rainfall deficits of between 3 and 6 inches exist west of I-95. With ongoing drought conditions in parts of the state, wildfires are a point of concern as the winter months are generally the driest of the year. On average, the state responds to over 5,000 wildfires according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Department. So far this year, there have been nearly 1,700 wildfires in South Carolina, burning over 15,000 acres.
Wildfire season in the Palmetto State typically lasts from January through mid-April. During this time, temperatures begin to climb during the spring season, but relative humidity values remain quite low. This combination helps to ignite dry shrubbery and can quickly lead to problems with growing wildfire numbers.
Similar to the last two La Niña winters, there will be rainfall. Seasonal outlooks provide an idea for how precipitation trends could evolve with time, but are not meant to forecast for specific rainfall totals.