For most of the country, this winter is expected to be warmer than usual, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration winter outlook released this week.
Climate conditions predicted in the outlook extend from December of this year to February of next year.
Across the South and most of the eastern U.S., winter weather is expected to be warmer than usual, with the warmest temperatures predicted in the Southeast. However, Minnesota and states in the upper Mississippi valley have equal chances of having a colder, average or warmer winter season.
Alaska and the Pacific Northwest are expected to have a colder winter than usual.
“La Nina climate conditions have emerged for the second winter in a row,” according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, and these predicted conditions are consistent with that weather pattern. La Nina refers is a periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific that typically happens every three to five years, said the National Weather Service. Occasionally, the pattern will occur during consecutive years.
With warmer temperatures in the South this winter, experts are concerned that a widespread, ongoing drought could get worse.
“The Southwest will certainly remain a region of concern as we anticipate below-normal precipitation where drought conditions continue in most areas,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
This severe drought is impacting the western half of the continental U.S., Northern Plains, and the Missouri River Basin, said NOAA. Drought conditions are expected to continue and develop in the Southwest and Southern Plains.
While drier-than-average conditions are predicted in south-central Alaska, southern California, the Southwest and the Southeast, wetter-than-average conditions are expected in parts of the Northern U.S., including the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and western Alaska.
NOAA data also shows that the Pacific Northwest, northern California, the upper Midwest, and Hawaii are could experience drought improvement.
Seasonal outlooks from NOAA are updated monthly.
“Using the most up-to-date observing technologies and computer models, our dedicated forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center produce timely and accurate seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for the months ahead,” said Michael Farrar, Ph.D., director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.