Don't be fooled: Winter WILL arrive, warns NOAA

Don't let the recent short-sleeve temperatures fool you: The U.S. remains on track for a repeat of last winter, NOAA forecasters have said. In an update to its official winter 2001-02 outlook, NOAA's National Weather Service said it still expects the coming winter to bring abrupt swings in temperature and precipitation, including heavy lake-effect snows in the Northeast and Midwest, cold air outbreaks in the South and the potential for Nor'easters along the East CoastForecasters said the winter outlook update, which covers December 2001 - February 2002, is missing the influences of either a strong El Niño or La Niña climate pattern, and paves the way for a winter of weather extremes.

"When neither climate pattern is present, other climate factors can play a significant role in the day-to-day winter weather we experience," said James Laver, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. Laver said the other climate factors include: the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of cold-air outbreaks in the South and Nor'easters on the East Coast, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can impact the number of heavy rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

Regional Outlooks

-- In the Northeast, colder-than-normal temperatures are expected. Snowfall for the entire region will depend on the fluctuations of the Arctic Oscillation;

-- The Mid-Atlantic states have equal chances of above normal, normal, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation. Storm tracks could bring more snow than the winters of the late 1990s, but this largely depends on the Arctic Oscillation;

-- The Southeast should be drier than normal. Temperatures have a slightly enhanced chance of averaging above normal;

-- In the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, temperatures should be lower than normal, with more sub-zero days than the average of recent winters. There are equal chances for cumulative precipitation to be above normal, normal, or below normal;

-- The northern Great Plains and Rockies should see below-normal temperatures with more sub-zero days than experienced on average during the winters of the late 1990s, but wet and mild weather is more likely for the southern Plains. The central Rockies can expect equal chances of above normal, normal, or below-normal precipitation and temperatures;

-- In the Northwest, there are equal chances for above normal, normal, or below-normal rain and snow. Heavy coastal rain events are more likely compared to the previous three winters. A repeat of the near-record dryness seen last winter is unlikely;

-- Expect warmer-than-normal temperatures in most of the Southwest and equal chances of above normal, normal or below-normal precipitation;

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