After a particularly brutal winter last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Climate Prediction Center just announced some good news: this year’s winter temperatures are likely to be fairly mild throughout most of the US.
From December to February, above-average temperatures are expected through the northern and western US, Alaska, and Hawaii. Most of the south can expect a wetter-than-usual winter season, while the southwest part of the country might see a continuation of current drought conditions. Meanwhile, the likelihood of El Niño developing is as high as 75 percent.
“We expect El Niño to be in place in late fall to early winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, in a statement. “Although a weak El Niño is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North.”
El Niño is a complex weather pattern resulting from changes in ocean temperatures along the Equatorial Pacific, causing periodic warming of sea surface temperatures that cause wetter-than-average winter conditions. More difficult-to-predict weather conditions like the Arctic Oscillation – which influences the movement of Arctic air – and the Madden-Julian Oscillation – which impacts tropical weather – could contribute to heavy precipitation across the west coast.
The northwestern US is more likely to see warmer-than-average temperatures than any other part of the country with average precipitation levels with the exception of Montana, which is expected to see less snowfall this year.
For those of you in the Midwest and the Great Lakes, you’ll likely see a warmer winter with less rain, sleet, and snow levels in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
Southerners, you’ll see pretty average seasonal temperatures with more wet conditions across the region, particularly northern Florida and southern Georgia.
Overall, the northeast is looking at a pretty normal season with average precipitation levels and relatively warmer temperatures.
The current droughts in the central Rockies and Four Corners regions are expected to continue, especially in Colorado and Utah. Northern Arizona and New Mexico could see more rain and snow, which may help relieve some dry conditions.
Hawaii and Alaska, you’ll both experience warmer weather than normal.
Even so, much of the US can wait on busting out the flip-flops. Even during warmer periods, cold temperatures and snowfall are still likely to occur.
While NOAA’s three-month estimates can help predict what temperature and precipitation conditions might look like, they don't predict how much snowfall will accumulate. These predictions can’t be made until about a week before. NOAA's next update will be available on November 15.