Don’t reach for those hand-warmers just yet — it may be a mild winter in most of the United States this year.
Temperatures are not expected to dip below average anywhere in the country from December to February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday in its “Winter Outlook.”
Much of the north and west parts of the country — especially Alaska and from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains — are set to see warmer-than-normal conditions, NOAA said.
Wetter-than-average conditions are favored across the southern tier of the U.S., and up into the Mid-Atlantic.
Above-average rainfall is most likely northern Florida and southern Georgia this winter.
The northern Rockies, northern Plains, Great Lakes and northern Ohio Valley are likely to see below-average precipitation, including snow.
The reason behind the milder-than-normal winter is the developing El Nino, which is when the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean has warmer-than-normal surface water.
These warmer-than-usual temperatures in the Pacific Ocean often bring warmer winters across the country as well as more rain to Southern California and the southern U.S.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, predicts that this year’s El Nino is expected to be weak, so other climate patterns that can affect winter weather are challenging to predict on a seasonal time scale.
Drought conditions are forecast to stay put this winter in the Southwest, Southern California, central Great Basin, central Rockies, Northern Plains and portions of the interior Pacific Northwest.
But they are expected to get better in Arizona and New Mexico, southern parts of Utah and Colorado, the coastal Pacific Northwest and the Central Plains, NOAA said.