WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Government forecasters say this winter looks to be cold and wet across the northern tier of states, including the Pacific Northwest, and the drought will worsen in the South, where conditions are expected to be warmer and drier than usual.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that like last winter, the Pacific Ocean cooling known as La Nina is affecting the weather.
NOAA says the Pacific Northwest from December to February will be “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.”
Mike Halpert, who's deputy director of the agency's Climate Prediction Center, says snowfall is likely to top the usual amounts from the Northwest to the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys.
He says dry conditions could extend from Southern California east across drought-stricken Texas and Oklahoma and along the Gulf Coast into Florida and possibly north to Virginia.
Halpert adds there is a “wild card” in all of this.
“The erratic Arctic Oscillation can generate strong shifts in the climate patterns that could overwhelm or amplify La Niña’s typical impacts,” said Halpert.
NOAA warns that the outlook does not project when and where snowstorms may hit and it does not provide a prediction of how much snowfall will accumulate. Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which are generally only predictable a week in advance.
In other words, just because experts predict more snow than usual this winter, that's no guarantee it will happen.