Mild but changeable winter weather predicted for much of U.S., federal forecasters say
Climate change is making winters colder despite rising temperatures and hotter summers. Here’s why. USA TODAY
A milder-than-average winter is predicted across much of the country, federal forecasters from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in the official U.S. winter weather outlook released Thursday.
Specifically, much of the South, along with New England, Alaska and Hawaii have the greatest chance of a mild winter.
However, while that's the overall pattern, the winter should also see big swings in weather. "Even during a warmer-than-average winter, periods of cold temperatures and snowfall are expected," the prediction center said in a statement.
As for precipitation, above-average amounts of rain and/or snow are forecast for much of the nation's northern tier, all the way from the northern Rockies to the Mid-Atlantic.
But forecasters said Thursday that they aren’t too confident in the outlook for December through February, which is known as meteorological winter.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the prediction center, said that’s because there’s no El Niño or La Niña in the central Pacific. The two naturally occurring climate patterns are often key drivers of winter weather.
“Without either El Niño or La Niña conditions, short-term climate patterns like the Arctic Oscillation will drive winter weather and could result in large swings in temperature and precipitation,” Halpert said.
Climate patterns such as the Arctic Oscillation – which can unleash intensely cold temperatures across the central and eastern U.S. – aren't included in this official forecast since they can't be predicted more than one or two weeks in advance.
This forecast only predicts where above or below normal temperatures – and above or below normal precipitation – are most likely.
This winter forecast does not specify how much precipitation will fall as rain, snow or ice, only that more or less is likely overall. Snow forecasts depend upon the strength and track of winter storms, which generally cannot be predicted more than a week in advance, the center said.
The center said that drier-than-average conditions are most likely for Louisiana, parts of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma as well areas of northern and central California, where drought could develop, NOAA said.
Contributing: The Associated Press