In the absence of El Niño and La Niña, the “wild card” La Nada appears to be creating another forecasting headache for the upcoming winter.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts equal chances for the winter to be unusually warm, cold, snowy, rainy or even average for much of the nation.
“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,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “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. So it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”
Through February, NOAA predicts:
- Drier weather in the Southwest and Southeast with wetter weather in the northern Rockies.
- Warmer weather across the Southern Plains, Southwest and New England.
- Cooler temperatures in the Northern Plains
Halpert explained a video here that both of NOAA’s temperature and precipitation outlook maps have large swaths of the country labeled "equal chances," which means there is no tilt in the odds towards either above- or below-average temperature or precipitation.
In the end, NOAA believes that drought could be the biggest story this winter.
“The outlook favors precipitation below the 1981-2010 average in both the Southwest and Southeast, making the persistence and development of drought likely in these regions,” Halpert said
Other forecasters have presented other possible winter scenarios:
- The Old Farmer’s Alamance suggests keeping “sweaters and snow shovels” nearby as the winter “is shaping up to be a rough one.”
- AccuWeather staff expects the winter to range from cold with above-normal snow in the Upper Midwest to cooler – and possibly wetter – for parts of western Texas and New Mexico.
- Meteorological service Weather Works also sees a good winter for snow-lovers across much of the Corn Belt, with the potential for several big storms across the high Plains and Midwest throughout the season.