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Will it Snow in Chattanooga This Winter?

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

People go for a walk as snow falls Sunday, January 16, 2022, in Nolensville, Tenn. Photo by Mark Humphrey, AP Photo

Whose idea of bliss isn’t strolling along a white, snow-laden Chamberlain field with a hot cup of coffee?

The beginning of January brought the first snowfall of the year upon surrounding areas like Signal Mountain and Knoxville, but not Chattanooga. 

Buzz about incoming snow storms circulated around Chattanooga last weekend, as forecasters predicted inches of snowfall. However, the snow and rain mix didn’t stick. The city only had a small taste of winter weather, but not enough to constitute a real snow day. 

Despite Chattanooga's lack of snow, UTC professors explained why there’s still a chance for winter weather this season. 

Dr. Jennifer Boyd has a PhD from Columbia University in Earth and Environmental Sciences. Her colleague in the Biology, Geology and Environmental Science Department, Dr. Hope Klug, described Dr. Boyd as “our expert in climate and climate change in the department.” 

Dr. Boyd spoke at length on the possibility of snowfall and Chattanooga’s climate, as well as the effects of climate change.

“We are in the 'humid subtropical climate' zone, which means that we have overall mild winters,” Dr. Boyd said.

Dr. Deanna Beasley of the Biology, Geology and Environmental Science Department added to the discussion behind the weather.

“We are experiencing a La Niña year, with warmer, drier conditions in the southern part of the U.S.,” Dr. Beasley said. “Climate change can exacerbate these conditions.”

She noted that since moving to Chattanooga five years ago, she believes the current weather does not seem unusual.

In regards to the factor of climate change, Dr. Boyd agreed, but she also explained that although the ongoing global warming can affect long-term weather patterns, short-term weather phenomena—like a particular cold front—can bring frigid temperatures nonetheless. 

In light of those details, the chance for snow might seem minimal, but records from the National Weather Service, last updated on May 5, 2021, reported Chattanooga’s average snowfall from 1991 to 2020 was 3.6” inches. 


“This average includes some years where we get no snow and other years when we get more than just a few inches,” Dr. Boyd said. “For example, I remember when my son was a baby, and I was just coming off maternity leave in January 2011. We had around 10" of snow, and everything shut down for about a week.”

Dr. Boyd added, “It's also important to point out that winter is about 12 weeks, and we're just about three weeks in at this point.”

It’s spectacular news for freshman Hailey Witte, a biology major from Minnesota. Her family moved to the Chattanooga area in May of 2014.

“As a kid, I loved the snow,” Witte said. “I still like snow, and wish it would snow so my family and I could play in it.”

While eager for snow, she understands its consequences for the city.

 “Since Chatt is never prepared for [heavy snow], driving would be a nightmare, not to mention that stores would immediately shut down,” Witte said. 

Political Science major Juan Carlos Aponte Ortiz echoed a similar sentiment. He described how the white snow reflects UV light back to his eyes, commonly referred to as snow blindness.

“I’m not a big fan of snow, particularly because my eyes are sensitive to light,” he explained. “Then, everything closes down when it snows, so there’s nothing to do anyway.”

For those particularly concerned about winter weather, consider reading UTC’s official blog, Safety and Risk Management, here. One of their blogs written last year, Winter Storm Safety Tips, admitted the bittersweet nature of snowfall for college students.

“It can be a euphoric occasion having a sudden snow day off; yet, harsh winter storms can be inconvenient and lead to a slew of safety risks,” Safety and Risk Management warned.

Additionally, Chattanooga Public Works posts their crew and equipment that is on standby on Twitter, as they did with the potential for black ice a few weeks ago.

No matter what the winter of 2022 has in store– from slush to ice–, enrolling in UTC-ALERTS gives you more time to react to potential threats. Follow this link for more instructions on how to sign up for UTC-ALERTS.

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