Each year around this time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, releases its U.S. Winter Outlook that predicts overall weather trends around the country for the upcoming winter. They produce these seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for the weather that is likely to be forthcoming.
A major influence on the weather this coming winter will be the existence and nature of a possible La Niña condition, which is essentially the opposite from an El Niño. Whereas an El Niño corresponds to unusually warm water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, a La Niña refers to unusually cold water in the same area.
In any case, forecasters are expecting a weak and potentially short-lived La Niña condition, which will nonetheless shape the character of the upcoming winter. A La Niña winter generally includes above average precipitation and colder than average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South.
In the Northeast, expectations are for warmer than average temperatures and normal-to-possibly higher-than-normal precipitation. A really cold winter is only predicted to occur in the Northern Tier from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest as well as in southeastern Alaska.
So how accurate are these annual predictions? In recent years, they have been quite accurate for large parts of the country but way off in others. The past two winters saw above-average temperatures over much of the nation, but significant snowstorms still struck many parts of the country. Weather forecasts and especially snow forecasts are generally not very reliable more than a week or so in advance. As always, we will have to wait and see what winter will actually bring.
Photo, posted February 12, 2006, courtesy of Tristan Loper via Flickr.