This year La Niña returns for the third consecutive winter, driving warmer-than-average temperatures for the Southwest and along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Winter Outlook released recently by the Climate Prediction Center — a division of the National Weather Service.
Starting in December through February, NOAA predicts drier-than-average conditions across the South with wetter-than-average conditions for areas of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.
The forecast says the greatest chance for warmer-than-average conditions are in western Alaska, the Central Great Basin, and Southwest extending through the Southern Plains. Warmer-than-average temperatures are also expected in the Southeastern U.S. and along the Atlantic coast.
Below-normal temperatures are favored from the Pacific Northwest eastward to the western Great Lakes and the Alaska Panhandle.
Forecasters say wetter-than-average conditions are most likely in western Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the northern Rockies, Great Lakes, and Ohio Valley. The greatest chances for drier-than-average conditions are forecast in portions of California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, the southern Plains, the Gulf Coast, and much of the Southeast.
The remainder of the U.S. falls into the category of equal chances for below-, near-, or above-average seasonal total precipitation.
NOAA forecasters, in collaboration with the National Integrated Drought Information System, continue to monitor extreme, ongoing drought conditions that have persisted in the Western U.S. since late 2020, as well as parts of the central U.S. where historic low-water conditions are currently present.
“Drought conditions are now present across approximately 59% of the country, but parts of the Western U.S and southern Great Plains will continue to be the hardest hit this winter,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, of the Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “With the La Niña climate pattern still in place, drought conditions may also expand to the Gulf Coast.”