Climate Trends: Southern U.S. Braces for a Wet Winter, While the North Basks in Warmth

This year, the United States is gearing up for winter with the return of El Nino, a climate phenomenon that has been absent for the past four years. According to the U.S. Winter Outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released by the Climate Prediction Center, this El Nino presence is expected to bring warmer-than-average temperatures to the northern tier of the continental United States. This forecast has significant implications for various sectors of the economy, from energy and agriculture to tourism.

Sarah Kapnick, Ph.D., the chief scientist at NOAA, emphasizes the importance of these seasonal outlooks in guiding the nation through the upcoming winter. The strengthening El Nino and potential climate extremes in a record-breaking year underscore the significance of the Climate Prediction Center’s work in creating operational seasonal climate predictions.

The outlook for December through February predicts wetter-than-average conditions in northern Alaska, parts of the West, the southern Plains, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, and the lower mid-Atlantic. Conversely, drier-than-average conditions are anticipated across the northern tier of the U.S., particularly in regions like the northern Rockies, High Plains, and areas near the Great Lakes.

El Nino’s influence is expected to result in an enhanced southern jet stream, contributing to above-average precipitation in the Gulf Coast, lower Mississippi Valley, and Southeastern states during the winter.

Drought remains a concern, with significant areas of the southern and central U.S. experiencing extreme and ongoing drought conditions. Hawaii is also seeing worsening drought. However, experts at NOAA anticipate that El Nino’s enhanced precipitation will bring relief to the southern U.S. in the coming months.

Temperature-wise, the northern tier of the U.S. is expected to experience warmer-than-average conditions, especially in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and northern New England. Meanwhile, near-normal seasonal temperatures are predicted for the region from the south-central Rockies to the southern Plains.

Precipitation patterns follow a similar trend, with wetter-than-average conditions expected in multiple regions, including parts of the West, southern Plains, Gulf Coast, Southeast, and lower mid-Atlantic. However, drier-than-average conditions are likely in some areas of the northern Rockies and the central Great Lakes region.

The drought outlook is mixed, with improvements expected in the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and Texas due to the wetter-than-average forecast. However, drought is projected to persist or develop in the northern Rockies, northern Great Plains, and the desert Southwest. Drought development is also possible in the interior Pacific Northwest. Hawaii is likely to continue facing drought conditions.

NOAA’s seasonal outlooks play a crucial role in helping communities prepare for the upcoming months, allowing them to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on people’s lives and livelihoods. These forecasts provide valuable information for various industries and sectors, enabling them to make informed decisions.

Additionally, NOAA is introducing new tools this winter to enhance communication and preparedness. The Probabilistic Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI-P) will provide graphical depictions of the likelihood of societal impacts due to expected winter hazards. Winter Key Messages will continue to highlight essential information for upcoming winter weather, including extreme cold and heavy snow potential. Impact-Based Warning Tags for Snow Squall Warnings will be implemented to address short-duration intense bursts of snow and wind. These warnings will use the “Significant” tag to indicate substantial threats to safe travel, and they will be limited to high-impact events. NOAA’s commitment to improving weather and climate forecasting is vital in building a more Weather- and Climate-Ready Nation.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the three-month outlook each month, with the next update set for November 16, ensuring that the latest information is available to support preparedness and decision-making.