The region got a taste of Old Man Winter when daytime temperature highs didn’t rise above the low 40s earlier this month. 

Though the official start to the season doesn’t happen until Dec. 21, forecasters are already offering predictions for the coming cold weather months. 

East Tennessee State University, home to the Tennessee Climate Office, projects:  

Close to average precipitation for much of the region;  
Heavier rain and snow in the mountains, especially in North Carolina; 
And the potential for slightly below average temperatures, especially in January and February, for the Appalachian Highlands. 

“These seasonal forecasts are certainly tricky, and this year is especially challenging,” said Dr. Andrew Joyner, the state’s official climatologist and a member of the ETSU Department of Geosciences. “Remember, too, that these predictions reflect the entirety of winter. We will almost certainly see very cold days and very warm periods, along with stretches of precipitation and even dry spells this winter.” 

Working out of Ross Hall on ETSU’s main campus, Joyner and Assistant State Climatologist Wil Tollefson use a range of data to make their predictions. Jet stream tracks, historical weather data and analysis from other agencies, including the National Weather Service, help guide their forecast. 

“It very likely will be wetter to our south, and that moisture may make its way to us, but it’s unclear if it will be rain or snow,” said Joyner. “It will be drier to our north, so Tennessee is kind of a battleground between the wet/cool conditions to our south and dry/warm conditions to our north.”  

Because the university houses the state’s climate office, ETSU is playing an outsized role in climate research


East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.

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