Despite a wild fall, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects a warmer-than-normal winter for the western two-thirds of the U.S. They don’t expect any areas with cooler-than-normal conditions.
“We expect El Nino to be in place in the late fall to early winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in a recent press release. “Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North.”
The outlook encompasses December 2018 to February 2019. In terms of precipitation, the lower Southwest, Mid-South and Mid-Atlantic states have the greatest chance for wetter-than-normal conditions. Parts of the Great Lakes and portions of Montana and the western Dakota will see drier-than-normal conditions. The rest of the country has no strong leanings toward wet or dry winter weather.
“The atmospheric conditions associated with a developing El Nino event remain modest at best,” said Jon Gottschalck, acting chief of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Operations Branch. “Although westerly low-level wind anomalies are now present, any organized areas of enhanced convection are not yet present.”
NOAA experts explain that certain other climate patterns are difficult to predict but can still affect winter weather. For example, Arctic Oscillation influences how many times arctic air masses move farther south—which has a great impact on the East Coast. In addition, the Madden-Julian Oscillation can create snowfall and heavy rain in the West Coast when El Nino is weak, as forecasters expect.
Snow forecasts are still not predictable more than a week in advance, NOAA’s website advises. Even in warmer-than-average winter it’s likely there will still be snowfall and periods of cold temperatures.