Monthly Archives: August 2017

Why Use a Box Plow?

If you are new to commercial snow removal, you may not be familiar with why box plows are such a popular option.  Yet those who have been doing commercial snow removal for years find box plows are an essential part of their snow fighting arsenal.  The box plows (also called containment plows) bring cost savings, ease of use, and flexibility to the commercial snow removal market making them one of the tools of choice for commercial properties.

We had a chance to talk to Jered Shuknecht, Marketing Director at Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution, Inc., a manufacturer of box (containment) plows in Rochester, New York.  Shuknecht shares with us why skid steers, end loaders, and backhoes, as well as box plows, are necessary for commercial snow removal.

Box Plows are Easier for Employees

Shuknecht started the conversation with employees.  “Plowing is hard to do, even with containment plows, but using containment (box) plows is a lot easier.”  Training is faster and getting a quality job done is easier with a box plow on a skid steer.

Not only is it easier for employees to do a good job, you need less employees overall.  “Our testing showed our containment plows can move up to 500% more snow than a truck plow.”  So, what took four people using four trucks with four plows in a large parking lot can now be done with a single employee in less time.

“You basically decrease the need for equipment and staff members,” Shuknecht points out.  You can then hire better quality employees, train them well, and you can be sure they are the kind of employees who are on site every time the snow flies, ready to move snow in a professional manner.  You can pay good employees what they are worth and STILL save money when you have the right equipment.

With the options to spread salt on the lot using a skid steer, your employees can just report to the job site now too.  No longer do all the employees need to come to a central location to clock in, they can go right to the job site eliminating all the time associated with going back and forth to your shop while they are still on the clock.

A final benefit of using box plows on something like a skid steer is that you have greater flexibility with the employees you hire.  Your employees do not need a driver’s license to operate a skid steer on a commercial lot and your insurance plan changes if you decrease how many employee are driving trucks on the open road.

Less Break Downs

Box plows are simpler pieces of equipment than a truck plow.  The truck plow needs its own hydraulics, electrical, controls plus extra frame and hinge parts that don’t exist on a box plow.  Now think about what box plows are mounted on.  These plows are mounted on machines meant for rugged work on construction sites, while your average truck is primarily designed as a machine for driving on paved roads.

You will find a skid steer used for plowing breaks down a whole lot less than a pickup truck.  Truck plows are hard on truck transmissions, electrical systems, and other systems on the truck. It is not that commercial snow removal companies don’t use truck plows, they just save the truck plows for the small jobs that don’t justify parking equipment on the client’s property to minimize the need for trucks and truck plows.

In the end, the differences in equipment means less maintenance and less equipment break downs when plowing with a box plow with a skid steer, loader, and backhoe.  The cost goes beyond the money to fix your equipment.  Clients that get frustrated with a plowing delay or poorly cleaned lot will find a new snow removal company when it is time for contract renewal…if they even give you that long.

Professional Snow Removal Means Professional Equipment

Shuknecht observes about investing in specialized commercial snow removal equipment, “It points to the seriousness, professionalism, and commitment a contractor has to the commercial sector.”  Shuknecht chuckled as he shared that his dad’s old truck with the old plow might be fine “for clearing snow for his 20 buddies,” but how is a guy shopping out zero tolerance snow removal agreement supposed to take a company with just a couple of plows of F-350s seriously?

Limits of a Truck Plow

There are two key things a box plow does that a truck plow can’t which makes a big difference.  First, a truck plow can’t stack snow all that high.  “A truck plow does not have the ability to stack snow and shelf it.  They just don’t have the height clearance,” Shuknecht notes.

With a truck plow, four feet is about as high as you are generally going to stack snow, yet even a small skid steer can push snow over 10 feet high.  Shuknecht goes on, “A truck plow pushes (the snow) horizontally and windrows snow instead of pushing it forward and stacking it vertically.”  In other words, since the pile can’t go up, it goes out…over your client’s parking lot, taking up space that could have been used customer and employee parking.

Truck plows can’t pull back the snow, also known as back dragging.  Back dragging can be especially important for parking lots that are in use during a snow storm.  A skid steer with something like the Pro-Tech Pullback Sno Pusher can reach between parked vehicles to clear out a vacant parking spot of its snow.  A skid steer with the right box plow can grab all of the snow out of one parking spot at a time without leaving snow pushed up against parked vehicles.

That does not work with a truck plow.  Most truck plows don’t even clean down to the pavement when pulling the snow backward, instead riding up on the snow and leaving a mess.  The few truck plows that can clean backward still do not capture all of the snow, instead losing snow around the edges of the plow, leaving piles of snow next to the vehicles that are parked adjacent to the spot just cleared.

Bringing It Home

Cost savings, better customer service, and easier employee training and management is a great list of benefits of why commercial snow removal contractors should be using box plows.

New Spreader Design Trumps Competition

The Sno-Way RVB Spreader | The Best Poly Spreader on the Market

The key factors is in combining a poly spreader with a controller that can be dialed in to control auger and spreader motor separately along with a revolutionary, patent-pending inverted vee. Some of the materials that Sno-Way has successfully spread are bulk salt (dry and wet), quarry sand (dry and wet), mason sand, salt/sand mix, magic salt, calcium chloride, pea gravel and bagged salt.


The short chute or long chute is an easy on/off connection with spring loaded clips. This feature allows you to remove the chute to quickly unload remaining product in the spreader or pull a trailer with the spreader left in the bed of the truck.

A single unique wiring harness supplies all of the power to the spreader from the battery with a water-tight Deutsch connector with a seal to connect to the hopper. The harness on the hopper is fully wired so as you add accessories like the vibrator, light, or wetting system with no cutting or splices needed, just plug and play and you are ready to operate the accessories.

The Patent-Pending Inverted Vee is Super Key…

By adjusting the inverted vee to match the material you want to spread you now can spread all the materials found in use throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. With the inverted vee adjusted correctly, you can maintain a flow rate between 2 to 3 cubic feet per minute of output. If you want more output on salt you can increase the output to 4 to 6 cubic feet per minute. This can be accomplished because the smart controller can manage the flow rate – providing the best spread pattern in the industry.

The auger is 3 inch in diameter to deliver approximately 2 plus cubic feet per minute of material to the spinner. That flow can be changed by adjusting the inverted vee to allow more material onto the auger. The inverted vee system is unlike any other system because it’s fully adjustable. The system can be adjusted so you can allow more material to flow into the auger. An example would be using sand as the spreading material. Since sand tends to pack together, you can open up the baffle and vee which will promote the sand to flow onto the auger delivering a consistent amount of material onto the spinner for spreading the material. If you need to flow dry bulk salt, you would need to close off some of the baffles and adjust the inverted vee to reduce flow to the auger allowing consistent output to the spinner. At the end of the day, this system will save you time and material which means money in the bank.

The spreaders are offered in six sizes 10 cubic feet through 2-1/2 yard capacity. This spreader was designed with the professional user in mind; many features and benefits that will make life easy for the user. The roto-molded perimeter hopper with ribbed sides mounted to a stainless steel frame gives the unit the structured needed to withstand the loads the unit will be subject to when the unit is in use.

The unit comes standard with a top screen to keep large clumps of material or rocks from getting into the hopper. This will help prevent the large clumps of material or rocks from jamming the auger system and stopping the material flowing to the spinner.

The unit to has stainless steel cross supports on top of the hopper to attach the screen and the hold down brackets. By adding this bracing you will not put added stress on the hopper body when you tie down the spreader to your truck. This system will eliminate the bowing out of the sides of the hopper that you notice on some units that mold the hold down brackets into the hopper.

The shape of the spreader hopper is designed to promote the high flow of material that is put inside of the spreader. The angle of the side helps material flow into the auger for a smoother, consistent, output from the spreader. The ½ hp motor/gearbox that turns the auger is sized to handle the load that the spreader requires. The motor gearbox is mounted in a protected molded cover to reduce the chance of damage and protect the motor from the elements. The 1/3 hp motor that turns the spinner is mounted inside of a molded cover to help protect it from the elements.

For those that like a vibrator on their spreader, the vibrator system can use single or dual mounted vibrators. The vibrator unit or units are placed in locations on the spreader that will have the biggest impact on the material you are trying to flow.

One of the big advantages of having an electric dual poly spreader with an auger drive is the reliability and the maintenance of the unit. On the maintenance side there is just less that can go wrong.

The spreader is designed to allow you to remove the auger completely from the spreader to make it easy for maintenance. All you have to do is remove a few plates and slide the auger out of the end of the spreader. This makes servicing the auger, bearings, auger motor and the trough very easy.

Spreader Page

Controller Page


Is Specializing in Commercial or Residential Snow Removal Right for You?

Rasevic Snow Services Front Loader

After a snow removal company grows to a certain point, the business owner often begins to think about whether the company should continue to take anybody and everybody that will sign a contract or if they should begin to specialize in handling only certain kinds of clients.

We caught up with Kevin Gilbride, Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA), and talked to him about the differences between commercial and residential snow removal and why the average snow removal contractor often moves toward one type or another.  ASCA is a leading association for professional snow removal companies.  Here are some of the things Gilbride shared with us.

Commercial and Residential Snow Removal are Two Different Animals

Almost every snow removal company starts the same, taking on any client who says “yes.” As the company grows into a stable company, many realize they have two entirely separate snow removal operations running at the same time.  Gilbride shares, “You end up with different kinds of route management, different kinds of equipment, different training, policies, and procedures.”

Gilbride summed it up, “You are running two different companies.”

Both residential and commercial clients want a property clean of snow for the smallest dollar amount with the job done “right,” but how you cost effectively make that happen looks very different.  Everything from obstacles and number of people on the property to how far you have to push the snow pile is different.  One or two guys might handle dozens of residential properties in a single storm.  On the other hand, a commercial property might take a dozen team members on a single property for the exact same storm in the same city.

Every year many growing snow removal companies to take a step back and ask, “do I best service my customers trying to be all things to all people?”  The answer is often “no” because of what it takes to clear a home versus what it takes to clear a larger lot.  Over the years, many snow removal companies have decided to specialize in either residential or commercial snow removal services rather than trying to be all things to all people.

What is Special About Residential Snow Removal?

For the residential providers, the name of the game getting as many clients as possible within a small service area.  Keeping clients grouped closely together eliminates time and distance between jobs which keeps employees and equipment moving snow.

You are also often limited in the equipment you can use because skid steers don’t travel fast enough between jobs and ATVs and UTVs are not always welcome traveling the streets in some cities.  Most residential snow removal companies will use a plow on a small truck, have something to quickly clear sidewalks (often transported in the back of the truck), and try to be in and out as quickly as possible.

The good news is, many residential properties can be done in mere minutes, but keep in mind that since contractors only get paid for moving snow, driving between jobs is a waste of time and money.

Another benefit of residential snow removal is residential customers don’t typically worry about slip and fall liability.  There is lower exposure to a home owner because there are less people on the property and even if someone does slip and fall on a homeowner’s property, there is less potential for a lawsuit.

The average homeowner will measure quality by looking out their window and if there is still a blanket of white on the driveway, then they give their snow removal team a call. If the driveway is clean, they go about their day happy.  No more thought is given to what it took to make the property safe.  That trickles down to less work in quoting, less work in documentation, and less risk to the business.

A final note about residential customers is that if you lose a customer, it is often easy to replace that customer with a new one.  Since all of the residential customers pay about the same, there are no “golden customers” that can make or break your business.

What is special about commercial snow removal?

For the commercial client, eliminating risk is the name of the game.  Gilbride shares the biggest concern is because, “commercial clients have the highest risk of liability.”  With more pedestrian traffic and deeper pockets, lawsuits are more likely to hit a commercial client.


With a commercial property, the idea is first to keep the property safe for everyone who steps foot on the property. The snow removal plan and the high level of employee training go a long way to keeping a property safe.  The next piece is to keep the snow removal contractor, the property owner, and the owner’s insurance company from getting sued which keeps costs down for everyone.

Gilbride shared that this is why commercial snow removal contractors have been pursuing the ISO/SN9001 standard.  “Everyone comes back from conferences and seminars all fired up with the great things they are going to implement, but then life happens and they never get it done.  Getting the ISO certification holds your feet to the fire to do what you know will be best for your client and your company.

The ISO SN9001 Standard

The commercial snow removal contractors who have been certified to the SN9001 standard delivers real value to their clients.  Clients win because they know the contractor is going to deliver on the plan since the contractor is audited by a third party showing the contractor does what was promised.  The contractor wins because the contractor has a quality management system in place ensuring nothing important falls through the cracks.  Everybody wins because the risk of Liability goes down.

Gilbride shared these numbers from last year:

  • Winter related slip and fall Lawsuits dismissed:
  • Industry Average = 35% dismissed
  • SN9001 Certified Companies = 70% dismissed
  • Industry Avg. Payout = over $15,000
  • SN9001 Certified Company Avg. Payout. = only $4100

Between the higher number of cases that get settled rather than dismissed as well as the higher payout, you have almost eight times the exposure using the average snow removal professional verses the SN9001 certified commercial snow removal contractor.

Risk extends beyond customers and visitors to the property because if an employee falls the client could find he or she is paying for medical bills, wages for lost time, and other expenses.  Going even further, risk extends into lost business when a potential customer goes to a competitor just because a lot or walkway is not cleared properly.

Risk can also extend to equipment.  Everyone knows the hospital needs to have a clear path for an ambulance, but any facility that has trucks arriving for shipping and receiving also needs to keep a clear path so the vehicles can safely drive on your property.  To get a truck stuck at a loading dock can be costly for the shipping firm and for the property owner.

Since the emphasis is on risk management, there is a lot more work in the quoting process and more documentation required before, during, and after snow events.  Each quote is often custom developed for every customer unlike residential jobs where a homeowner can get one of only a few different standard packages.

There are other factors to commercial snow removal as well.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out commercial properties have a lot more snow to move and often the snow has to be pushed over longer distances.  In order to move snow fast and economically, a contractor is going to use equipment like skid steers, end loaders, and other machinery in addition to larger trucks because the different machinery can move large amounts of snow quickly.  Most commercial contractors will even dedicate equipment to your property for the season, parking the equipment on site ensuring the equipment is always ready to go.

The difference in preparation and documentation is even more striking than the difference in equipment.  A commercial property will often require a researched and documented snow removal plan ahead of time, higher levels of employee training, and even a document retention plan.  Software to quote, plan, and track crews is almost a must when it comes to commercial snow removal.

A down side of commercial snow removal is that if a client moves to a different snow removal contractor, the business can be severely hurt.  If you lose a $1 million client, you need to replace that client fast or you need to have a smaller staff the next snow season.  Equipment used to service large client can become a risk to business health if you still have a loan against the equipment.  The upshot is, if you just won new $1 million a season client, you might just get that trip to Hawaii come next spring.

In the end, there is no “better” type of client.  Many snow contractors handle just residential jobs and others handle just commercial jobs.  Both types of clients can provide you with a consistently successful business from year to year, the question may just be, which type of client do you feel more comfortable serving?

Assistance for Businesses Disrupted by Road Projects

Facing a Road Construction Project? Help Local Business Owners Survive

Road construction in Manhattan
Orange barrels mark a construction project. Extensive road construction can disrupt traffic, hinder parking, and cripple local shopkeepers.

Transportation projects often disrupt a busy main street in a business district. The economic impact can be devastating! In Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, business owners were informed their sales could drop between 33-70 percent during the State Street Streetscape project that began last spring in 2016. And guess what? There are still major traffic and parking disruptions this summer that no doubt have had a major negative impact on foot traffic.

In your work as a transportation services provider, you know local businesses in the work zone can’t do “business as usual.” They need your help! Your guidance goes beyond working on project design, preparing bid and contract documents, and working with the contractor.


APWA Wisconsin Snowplow Roadeo Sept. 5-6, 2017

Wisconsin APWA Plow Roadeo at Lambeau Field September 5-6, 2017

The 28th Annual APWA – Wisconsin Snow Plow Roadeo and Equipment Show is quickly approaching and we would like to invite you to consider being a part of this exciting event. This will be the thirteenth consecutive year the competition will be held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Winter Maintenance Supervisor training will again be offered the day before the Roadeo, Tuesday September 5. The Roadeo and equipment show are scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. LINK

Snowplow Roadeo and Equipment Show Information: All indoor activities will be held at the Stadium View Bar and Grille located at 1963 Holmgren Way Green Bay, WI 54303. Parking at Stadium View.

Drivers: Individuals will be tested on their knowledge of vehicle safety and operations, mechanical knowledge of snowplow equipment, and their driving ability while navigating through an obstacle course. Top two drivers will lay claim to the prestige of knowing they are the top dogs of snowplowing in Wisconsin and go on to compete in the National Snow Plow Roadeo at the Western Snow & Ice Conference in Loveland Colorado September 27th-29th. Registration and Travel Expenses up to $1,150 per person will be paid for by the Wisconsin Chapter APWA.

If you don’t want to drive…opportunities to participate include event judging and testing…so get involved!

Mechanic Training: Join us on Tuesday, September 5th from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Stadium View to participate in a one-day, vendor training from Force America on spreader controls and hydraulics and Haldex brakes on foundation braking systems.
Vendors/ Manufacturers: We are extending this invitation to all vendors and manufacturers to display their vehicles and equipment to help us sponsor this year’s event. As a vendor or sponsor, you will be helping to make this year’s event unforgettable to all participants. The event will be held on the parking lot near the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field. There will be a tailgate lunch and each participant will also receive a souvenir Packer hat.

Winter Maintenance Supervisor Certificate Training Information: Join us on Tuesday, September 5th from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Stadium View to participate in a one-day, winter maintenance certificate workshop designed to expand participant knowledge in winter maintenance planning, weather, operations, chemicals, maintenance and environmental impacts. National accredited speakers will provide the in-depth knowledge all winter maintenance personnel need! Contact Holly Powell at or (608) 270-4263 for further detail.

Lodging: Accommodations can be made with the Tundra Lodge Resort, 865 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay at (877) 886-3725. As for a room for the SNOWPLOW ROADEO guest room block.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday September 5:
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM Winter Maintenance Supervisor Certificate Training at Stadium View
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM Mechanic Training at Stadium View
8:00 AM – 2:00 PM Roadeo and Vendor Set Up at Stadium View and Lambeau Field
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM Equipment Show Social Hour at Stadium View

Wednesday September 6:
7:00 AM – 8:00 AM Registration and Check-In inside the Stadium View
7:00 AM – 2:30 PM Equipment Show at Stadium View Parking Lot
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM Welcome and Course Description inside the Stadium View
8:30 AM – Noon Driving Test at Lambeau Field Parking Lot
8:30 AM – Noon Written Test at Stadium View
Noon – 1:00 PM Lunch at Stadium View
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Awards and Raffle Prizes at Stadium View



Clearing Snow Fast from Under Trailers

Snowgrr-on-catCleaning a lot in half the time sounds really good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t any snow removal contractor like to cut their labor in half? That is what happened to one team dedicated to removing snow at a distribution center when they exchanged their offset plow for a patented Snowgrr by Berlon Industries to clear snow out from underneath trailers and other hard to clear areas.

We had an opportunity to chat with the inventor of the Snowgrr, Elliot Pennock, whose family has worked in snow and ice removal in Iowa for many years. As with many inventions, the Snowgrr was born out of frustration because nothing on the market could get the job done right.

It was work at a distribution center for a major US retailer that sparked the idea for the Snowgrr (originally it was called Snowger, but it recently went through a name change). For years, all you could use was an offset plow (a plow that extends 6’ or so further to the right than the left) attached to a front-end loader or backhoe to clear out snow from underneath trailers. The only problem was, moving the snow took too long.

Pennock shares “at a distribution center, speed is the name of the game.” The distribution center employees need to hook-up and go FAST and in order to do that, they need pavement clear of snow for hook-up clearance and for safety. They also need the snow removal crew to be out of their way. The offset plow, even though it was designed to clear out under trailers, was just too slow for everybody.

So Pennock got to work and the first thing he wanted was to make something that would work with a skid steer. Pennock specifically targeted a skid steer because “it is a piece of equipment any serious contractor has, if I can clear snow fast with a skid steer, I know a contractor will have the right machine.”

To go from a loader to a skid steer, pushing the snow became out of the question, the skid steers didn’t have the same kind of muscle. Pennock knew the solution had to move the snow out of the way fast, and what better way than an auger? The auger quickly makes a windrow and another operator can follow behind with a box plow, similar to when they used the offset plow.

Going to an auger had lots of advantages. Compared to some of the most popular offset plows, it was hundreds of pounds lighter. Since the auger moved snow as fast as a politician makes promises (that’s F.A.S.T. fast y’all) there was additional weight savings because you are pushing less snow. With less snow, the unit could be smaller, so the Snowgrr is about 20% less high than many of the offset plows out there, giving more visibility to the operator.

While the Snowgrr was born at a distribution center, Pennock imagines seeing the Snowgrr in use soon in other applications too, whether under airplanes, overhangs, or any hard to reach area where snow needs to get removed.

Yet Pennock kept going back to speed in our conversation. “That same lot that took 6-8 hours to clean normally takes closer to 2 hours now,” using the same size crew and one Snowgrr. It is not just shuttling the snow out of the way. The maneuverability available from a skid steer allows crews to quickly reach into places with the Snowgrr they had to tip-toe around or completely avoid with the offset plow.

Not only is the snow removal quicker, but since it is on a skid steer with universal attachment plates, the Snowgrr can be quickly exchanged for another piece of equipment like a conventional box plow or a salt spreader. The Snowgrr actually comes with two attachment plates, one for offset snow removal, and a center attachment plate primarily for transportation, but which can also be used for making windrows without the offset.


The Snowgrr even provided benefits Pennock was not expecting. Since the operator sits lower to the ground in a skid steer compared to a backhoe or an end loader, visibility underneath trailers and other objects was improved. The added visibility allows for additional speed while improving safety at the same time since the operator has a better view underneath the trailers.

In 2016, Pennock reached out to Berlon Industries and the parties entered into a license agreement.  Berlon Industries is no stranger to snow and ice removal.  They have been manufacturing snow and ice removal equipment for skid steers, backhoes, telehandlers, and front end loaders for years.  The Snowgrr is a great addition to the Berlon lineup providing a much needed niche tool for contractors needing to remove a lot of snow underneath objects (like at those distribution centers).  Berlon tells us the Snowgrr is now used at distribution centers for Walmart, FedEx, and Family Dollar among other places.

Since Pennock came out with the original design, the rest of the team at Berlon has made additional improvements to make the Snowgrr more robust. They replaced the original bearings with long wearing poly bearings that are maintenance free. The team also figured out how to ship the Snowgrr in two 8 foot sections, essentially cutting the shipping cost in half. A few other tweaks made the Snowgrr easier to manufacture ensuring customers pay the lowest price possible.

So let’s look at the list again of why the Snowgrr is so great.

  • The Snowgrr is FAST at removing snow from under trailers and other objects.
  • The Snowgrr is made to go on a skid steer, something you as a contractor likely already own
  • Since the Snowgrr is on a skid steer, the operator has improved visibility, great maneuverability, and can quickly swap it out for other attachments.

In the end, the Berlon Industries team sees that the Snowgrr will save you a lot of money compared to using an offset plow, allowing you and your customers to win.  You can find out more information about the patented Snowgrr by Berlon Industries here.


Deep in the Heart of Summer; An Early Winter Forecast

Milwaukee – Wow, it is sunny and hot across most of the United States. That is not a surprise in early August. Most of the United States is now starting to experience a slight drop in average temperature now that we are inching towards late summer. June was quite warm and July has been very similar. And that makes it a perfect time to talk about this winter, right? For some of us it is always too early to discuss winter. And for others, they never stop talking about winter.

La Nina or El Nino?

If you follow the weather more than just watching the 7 Day Forecast on the news or your favorite weather app, you have probably heard about El Nino. In fact, you can call yourself an avid weather fanatic if you have also heard of La Nina and ENSO Neutral conditions and know what they mean. I bring up ENSO because it is a large scale circulation in the Pacific Ocean that can impact North America. Specifically, it can impact our winter weather. Are you interested now? ENSO and the specific phase – warm (El Nino), cold (La Nina) and neutral – are very important drivers in the type of winter North America can experience. Let’s discuss figure 1 and 2 below.


Figure 1 depicts a generalization of global impacts when La Nina occurs during the northern hemisphere winter. In the United States, the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains experience cooler than average temperatures and the southern United States is dry and warm. The Pacific Northwest and Ohio River Valley can expect wetter than normal conditions. Figure 2 represents winter during El Nino. Much of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains experience above average temperatures while the southern United States is wetter and cooler than average. Okay, that was a lot of information, but did you catch all of that?

So, where are we right now and what can we expect going into fall and winter? Good question!

Fig. 3 July 31 Nino Regions SST Anomalies
Fig. 4 ENSO Forecast

Figure 3 shows the four Niño regions and how much the sea surface temperatures are departing from long term averages. Niño 3.4 is the standard for tracking the ENSO phase. Note there is no departure from the long term average. This means we are in a neutral phase of ENSO. Figure 4 is the latest forecast and goes out to April 2018 in three month periods. The green bar is neutral. The forecast calls for a 48 to 52% chance of neutral through January, February and March 2018. These probabilities are much higher than the red bar (El Niño at 32 to 36% chance) even though climatology favors an El Niño or La Niño during these winter months.

Neutral Phase during a U.S. Winter…

So, if the ENSO forecast verifies and we are neutral during the winter, what does that mean for the United States? Well, we can use an analog method and look backwards using data. What do I mean? Well, we have ENSO phase records for every winter, specifically December through March, back to 1950. I am going to isolate neutral winters since 1950 for the United States. I will plot temperature and precipitation anomalies over the entire country and compare the findings to the 1981 to 2010 long term average.

Fig. 5 ENSO Neutral Winters vs. LTA (Temp)
Fig. 6 ENSO Neutral Winters vs. LTA (Precip)

The above maps plot temperature and precipitation from December through April for all neutral years noted at the top of each map. Figure 5 plots temperature anomalies for these winters. Note that most of the country is in green and blue – below average temperatures of -1.0 to -3.0F. That is a strong signal. Figure 6 plots precipitation and shows below average precipitation (yellow and red) in the southwest. Above average precipitation (blue) is scattered in the northwest and southeast. If you just look at these two maps, you would conclude that most of the country will see average to below average temperatures and near average precipitation. How does this compare to the official NOAA outlook? Let’s check it out.

Fig. 7 NOAA DJF Temp Forecast
Fig. 7 NOAA DJF Temp Forecast

Note the stark difference in the temperature and precipitation forecasts. NOAA is calling for most of the United States to experience average to above average temperatures from December through February and nearly average precipitation.

Winter 2017/18 Conclusions

Let me preface that weather is not simplistic and there are many variables that impact weather. ENSO is not the sole driving factor that will impact our winter. However, it has been shown to have a significant impact. Coming off of two mild winters, expect temperatures to return to normal for most of the United States. Precipitation should be more evenly distributed this winter with most of the United States experiencing average precipitation. For the northern United States, this means most of us experience more snow than the winters of 2015 and 2016. These are long term outlooks and do not try to pinpoint cold air intrusions or specific storms. Those types of forecasts are only accurate within a week, or less, of occurring. The takeaway as of August 1st, this winter will look more like a typical winter for most of us. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine and wear the sunscreen!

Mark McGinnis is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and can be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn,
Twitter or through his website.

Winter Weather Research Tools Available

Researching Past Snowfall is Tricky

Winter Weather Research is a bit tougher than going to your favorite search engine and expecting a decent response.  Oh, you will get a number of results but, more often than not, you will get the Weather Channel and its’ competitors or you will get an article designed as “click-bait” which you will no doubt click on – Not actual Research…

OR      You will inadvertently click on one of the many web resources of the NOAA and then get lost after an hour of clicking – Because you need to be a trained meteorologist to actually make sense of the data they present.



OR    You can go to the Winter Weather Research page on and use the tools provided for you.  These are some of the best resources in North America – Click on the image below to go there – No this is not “Click-Bait” – We are just really nice folks…


Now, thanks to technology from the NOAA, any user can research any single day of snow cover back to November 15, 2010 – we did some digging to bring this one to you.

The Global Snow and Ice Cover Map is derived from combined observations of METOP AVHRR, MSG SEVIRI, GOES Imager and DMSP SSMIS.

Shown below is the actual snow cover for November 25, 2010. A user can look up any day to see what the actual snow cover was in any part of the world over the past 6+ years.


Click on the image above and look for the Global Snow and Ice Cover Map to begin your research.


Updated AUG 2017, to ensure accuracy.