This year's strong "El Nino" weather pattern is expected to be a big factor. It could lead to a warmer, drier winter in the northwest and plains states and, possibly, more rain in California, as well as parts of the Gulf Coast and Florida. Much of the country's northern half is forecast to have above-normal temperatures, while much of the southern half is expecting colder weather this winter.
"This El Nino is a monster and I guarantee you it's gonna deliver," offered NASA climatologist Bill Patzert, who has been tracking El Nino patterns for years.
Patzert says as the models this year begin to get clearer, the odds of an above average wet winter are growing.
In the forecast released Friday by NOAA, the federal agency that tracks weather patterns, there are rising ocean temperatures along the equator -- the signature definition of El Nino.
"Heading into winter, we're seeing values not seen since the big 1997-98 episode," said Mike Halpert with NOAA.
And a wetter, colder winter in the south can also mean snow.
"While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Nino are favored, El Nino is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale," said Halpert.
The seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance, NOAA said.
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