This winter should bring beneficial rain and snow for much of California, while most of the southern United States should see wet, cool weather because of one of the strongest El Niños on record, federal forecasters announced Thursday.
El Niño, a natural warming of Pacific Ocean water that affects weather patterns around the world, should be a major player in both temperature and precipitation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
“A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement.
Halpert called this El Niño one of the strongest on record.
“Confidence continues to grow that this El Niño will be one of the strongest El Niños over the past 50 years,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson.
Drought-plagued California will benefit from the El Niño, which tends to bring rain and snow, but it may not be enough.
“While it is good news that drought improvement is predicted for California, one season of above-average rain and snow is unlikely to remove four years of drought,” Halpert said. “California would need close to twice its normal rainfall to get out of drought, and that’s unlikely.”
As of Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor, 97% of California remains in a drought.
While more precipitation is likely across the southern United States, a winter that is drier than average is forecast for most of Alaska, the northern Rockies, the northern Plains and around the Great Lakes, the prediction center said.
The winter forecast does not specify how much precipitation falls as rain, snow or ice, only that more is likely overall. Snow forecasts depend upon the strength and track of winter storms, which generally cannot be predicted more than a week in advance, the center said.
There is a good deal of certainty that the Great Lakes region will get less lake-effect snow than usual, according to AccuWeather.
As for how cold this winter will be, most of the western and northern United States should see milder- than-average temperatures, because weather patterns should keep away the worst of the extended cold outbreaks. But occasional chilly air masses are still likely across the northern tier.
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