WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — The sight of Christmas trees and the ringing of sleigh bells means it will soon be the coldest time of year.

But for many of us, the season doesn’t really start until we can wake up and see our lawns covered in snow.

A forecast of our winter weather should start not with a look up at the sky…but with a look into the ocean thousands of miles away.

It’s the third year in a row we’re seeing La Nina, which means cooler-than-average water off South America’s coast is causing trouble for the rest of the world.

For West Virginia, that means our winter is leaning toward being a little wetter and a little less cold.

But our state climatologist Dr. Kevin Law says the effect won’t be quite as strong in 2022.

If we look at the first year of La Nina we were more in the moderate kind of category. Last year getting a little bit weaker and this year a little bit weaker yet. We’re probably kind of on the borderline of what you’d classify as a weak-to-moderate.

Dr. Kevin Law, WV State Climatologist

That’s reflected on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s official prediction maps.

Source: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

That light orange stripe over West Virginia means slightly higher temperatures than normal…and the light green area means more rain or snow.

But Dr. Law says La Nina doesn’t have an iron grip over our winter conditions…since lots of other patterns are conspiring in the Atlantic to throw a wrench in our winter plans.

Just because things might be nearer or closer to normal with just the La Nina, you can still always have some of those larger snow events.

Dr. Kevin Law, WV State Climatologist

That’s not to mention that a degree or two one way or the other means the difference between slick snow and slushy stuff.

Even if snow forms up in the clouds, it still has to pass through layers of minute-by-minute temperature changes before it falls on our streets.

You never quite know what you’re going to get…which is why we don’t get a lot of warnings for big snowstorms.

The difference between rain, to freezing rain, to sleet, to snow can change over a relatively short distance.

Dr. Kevin Law, WV State Climatologist

The last few years in Wheeling haven’t been record-breaking when it comes to snow, and this year may follow suit as the reign of La Nina continues.

But don’t throw out your sled, because tomorrow never knows when it comes to winter.