Outlook predicts mild winter for much of U.S.

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Oct 23, 2006
by WLJ
Most of the country will see winter temperatures above normal, though slightly cooler than last year’s very warm winter, according to the winter weather outlook announced today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center who produce the outlook, drought conditions also are expected to improve in most areas of the Southwest, while some drought conditions are anticipated in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

The projections, based on the last edition of the U.S. Seasonal Outlook, were issued by NOAA in conjunction with the 2006-2007 Winter Fuels Outlook Conference.

Weak El Niño conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific can and are expected to persist through the winter, possibly strengthening during the next few months to an event of moderate strength. However, this event is not expected to reach the magnitude of the strong 1997-1998 El Niño event.

“The strengthening El Niño event will influence the position and strength of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn will affect winter precipitation and temperature patterns across the country,” said Michael Halpert, lead forecaster at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “This event is likely to result in fewer cold air outbreaks in the country than would be expected to occur in a typical non-El Niño winter.”

The winter outlook reflects a blend of factors associated with weak to moderate strength El Niño events across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, combined with longer-term trends.

From December through February, the lower 48 states can expect about 2 percent fewer heating degree days than average but about 5 to 10 percent more heating degree days than last year’s very warm winter. Seasonal forecasters also expect warmer than average temperatures across the West, the Southwest, the Plains states, the Midwest, and most of the Northeast. Near-average temperatures are expected for parts of the Southeast. The outlook for winter precipitation calls for wetter than average conditions across the Southwest. Drier than average conditions are expected in the Tennessee Valley, the northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Other regions have equal chances of drier, wetter or near normal precipitation.