La Nina Means Winter Will be Cold, Wet

Grab the galoshes, it's gonna be a wet winter.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Thursday, Oct 20, 2011  |  Updated 4:36 PM PDT
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The meteorologists at NOAA looked through their forecasting crystal ball and said they saw a colder and wetter winter for the Pacific Northwest. 

The forecast is great news for ski resorts and terrible news for people who have bad hair days when it rains.

For the second winter in a row, La Nina is getting the blame (or credit) for the forecast.

Specifically for California, NOAA is predicting colder than average temperatures with odds favoring wetter than average conditions for the northern part of the state. The opposite is true for Southern California, where a drier than average winter is predicted. All of the southern part of the nation are at risk of having above normal wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring.

La Nina is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and influences weather throughout the world, and NOAA expects it to strengthen in the coming months

"The evolving La Nina will shape this winter," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. "There is a wild card, though. The erratic Arctic Oscillation can generate strong shifts in the climate patterns that could overwhelm or amplify La Niña’s typical impacts."

Arctic Oscillation is what was behind last year's East Coast "Snowmaggedon."

Along with the general forecast of cold and wet, this week NOAA implemented what they say is a more accurate weather forecast model. The model is supposed to help people like NBC Bay Area's Jeff Ranieri, Christina Loren and Rob Mayeda in their forecasting.

Highlights of the U.S. Winter Outlook include:

  • Pacific Northwest: colder and wetter than average. La Niña often results in below-average temperatures and increased mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest and western Montana during the winter months. This may set the stage for spring flooding in the Missouri River Basin;
  • Northern Plains: colder and wetter than average. Spring flooding could be a concern in parts of this region;
  • Southern Plains and Gulf Coast States: warmer and drier than average. This will likely exacerbate drought conditions in these regions;
  • Florida and south Atlantic Coast: drier than average, with an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures. Above normal wildfire conditions;
  • Ohio and Tennessee Valleys: wetter than average with equal chances for above-, near-, or below-average temperatures. Potential for increased storminess and flooding;
  • Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation. Winter weather for these regions is often driven not by La Niña but by the Arctic Oscillation. If enough cold air and moisture are in place, areas north of the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast could see above-average snow;
  • Great Lakes: tilt toward colder and wetter than average;
  • Hawaii: Above-average temperatures are favored in the western islands with equal chances of above-, near-, or below average average precipitation. Statewide, the current drought is expected to continue through the winter. Drought recovery is more likely over the windward slopes of the Big Island and Maui;
  • Alaska: colder than average over the southern half of the state and the panhandle with below average precipitation in the interior eastern part of the state.

NOAA said the outlook doesn't project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.

U.S. Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html
National Integrated Drought Information System - U.S. Drought Portal: http://www.drought.gov
U.S. Winter Outlook: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/fxus05.html
Hydrometeorological Prediction Center: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

 

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