Winter Weather Outlook Takes Unexpected Turn

Storm Clouds

According to the updated Winter Climate Outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the appearance of an El Niño this winter now seems unlikely. The agency’s initial winter forecast included a high chance of an El Niño pattern being present, which means increased odds of unusually wet and cold winters across the southern tier of the U.S., while the Pacific Northwest tends to experience milder temperatures than usual.

The lack of an El Niño or a La Niña event heading into winter usually means less predictable U.S. winter climate conditions and is one reason why the areas for well-above- or well-below-average temperature or precipitation this winter in the updated outlook are smaller than what was issued back in October.

Still, much of the western and southern central U.S. could be in for a warmer-than-average winter this year, while the upper Midwest and Florida peninsula could experience colder-than-average temperatures. In terms of precipitation this winter, most of California and western Nevada could experience well-below-normal conditions while parts of the southeast could receive well-above-normal precipitation.

Red and blue areas in the map above show the percent chances that temperatures will be in the upper or lower third of average winter conditions observed in those regions during the period from 1981-2010, respectively.

The map above shows the percent chances that precipitation will be in the upper third of the observed range of winter precipitation from 1981-2010 (green) or in the lower third of the observed range (brown). No shading over an area means there are equal chances for any given temperature or precipitation conditions this winter.

This outlook is potentially bad news for many residents of the Great Plains, Midwestern and Southern Central regions of the United States, which have been in the grip of a prolonged and severe drought. However, there could be some drought relief in store for watersheds in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, where wetter-than-normal conditions are favored this winter.

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