In the first of a two-part update to the U.S. Winter Outlook, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologists predict this winter to be warmer than the 30-year norm, yet cooler than last year. NOAA's heating degree-day forecast for December, January and February projects a 0.7-percent warmer winter than the 30-year normal, but 6.5-percent cooler than last year. Therefore, people can expect, on average, more cooler days this winter than last.

“With the absence of El Niño and La Niña, this year's winter outlook presents a challenge to seasonal forecasters,” said Jim Laver, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “Shorter-term climate fluctuations that are best predicted week-by-week are expected to play the dominate role on the weather patterns this winter,” he added.

The precipitation outlook is less certain, showing equal chances of above, near or below normal precipitation for much of the country.

The Winter Outlook Update

The 2005-2006 U. S. winter outlook calls for warmer-than-average temperatures for much of the central and western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The Midwest, the Mississippi Valley, the Southern Californian coast and the East Coast have equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures.

The precipitation outlook calls for wetter-than-average conditions across most of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, northeastern Texas, Hawaii and northwestern Alaska. The remainder of the country has equal chances of above, near or below normal precipitation.

An equal chance, either for temperature or precipitation, is predicted when there is no strong or consistent climate signal for either an above or below normal conditions during the season. The prediction for areas of “equal chances” means there is a 50 percent chance for either an above-normal or below-normal forecast.

As winter approaches, nearly 20 percent of the nation is in some level of drought compared to around 30 percent of the country this time last year as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. For the sixth year in a row, drought remains a concern for parts of the Northwest and northern Rockies. Wet or dry conditions during the winter typically have a significant impact on drought conditions. Winter-spring snow pack is particularly important in the West, as much of the annual water supply comes from the springtime snow melt. NOAA cautions it would take a number of significant winter snowstorms to end the drought in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies.

Source: NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

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