While the northern Plains should see colder-than-average weather this winter, much of the South and New England should see warmer-than-average temperatures.(Photo: NOAA)
The northern Rockies should see more precipitation than average, while portions of the Southwest and Southeast will see less precipitation than average.(Photo: NOAA)
Intense cold will make an early and unwelcome appearance this weekend across much of the nation, but what can we expect for the rest of the cold season?
People in Texas and New England who are hoping for a warmer-than-average winter may get their wish, according to the winter forecast issued Thursday by federal scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Elsewhere, unusually dry, warmer-than-average conditions are expected this winter across parts of the southern USA, according to Mike Halpert, acting director at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md.
This will likely "offer little relief to the drought-stricken Southwest, and drought is likely to develop across parts of the Southeast," Halpert said.
The center's forecast covers the months of December, January and February, which is known as meteorological winter.
Specifically, the forecast calls for:
• Below-average snow and rain in the Southwest and Southeast.
• More snow than usual in the northern Rockies, particularly over Montana and northern Wyoming.
• Colder-than-average temperatures in the northern Plains.
• Above-average temperatures in the Southwest, the south-central USA, parts of the Southeast and New England.
The center said there isn't enough data to determine the specific forecast for the rest of the country, which includes most of the the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and much of the West. Those areas have "equal chances" of a colder or warmer than average winter and equal chances for a wetter or drier than average winter.
"It's a challenge to produce a long-term winter forecast without the climate pattern of an El Niño or a La Niña in place out in the Pacific, because those climate patterns often strongly influence winter temperature and precipitation here in the United States," Halpert said.
El Niño is unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean, while La Niña means cooler-than-average water in the Pacific.
"Without this strong seasonal influence, winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns ... such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two," Halpert said
The Arctic Oscillation is a large-scale climate pattern in the atmosphere that strongly affects winter weather, especially in the eastern U.S.
Winter storms cannot be forecast accurately more than a week in advance, Halpert said.
A winter forecast from private weather firm AccuWeather, which was issued last month, called for a mild start to winter in the East and a cold start in the West. This pattern was expected to flip sometime toward the second half of the winter, which AccuWeather said would end on a warmer note in the West and with unusual cold in the East.
Doyle Rice, USA TODAY