NOAA releases winter outlook, Texas drought to continue

Contact: Maureen O’Leary  301-713-6022 


U.S. dealt another La Niña winter but ‘wild card’ could trump it

Devastating drought in Southern Plains likely to continue

The Southern Plains should prepare for continued drier and warmer than average weather, while the Pacific Northwest is likely to be colder and wetter than average from December through February, according to the annual Winter Outlook released today by NOAA.

For the second winter in a row, La Niña will influence weather patterns across the country, but as usual, it’s not the only climate factor at play. The “wild card” is the lesser-known and less predictable Arctic Oscillation that could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures this winter.

NOAA expects La Niña, which returned in August, to gradually strengthen and continue through the upcoming winter. It is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and influences weather throughout the world.

“The evolving La Niña 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.”

The Arctic Oscillation is always present and fluctuates between positive and negative phases. The negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation pushes cold air into the U.S. from Canada. The Arctic Oscillation went strongly negative at times the last two winters, causing outbreaks of cold and snowy conditions in the U.S. such as the “Snowmaggedon” storm of 2009. Strong Arctic Oscillation episodes typically last a few weeks and are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance.

With La Niña in place Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of surrounding states are unlikely to get enough rain to alleviate the ongoing drought. Texas, the epicenter of the drought, experienced its driest 12-month period on record from October 2010 through September 2011.

Stormy periods can occur anytime during the winter season. To improve the ability to predict and track winter storms, NOAA implemented a more accurate weather forecast model on Oct.18. Data gathered from the model will support local weather forecast office efforts to prepare for and protect the public from weather events. This service is helping the country to become a Weather-Ready Nation at a time when extreme weather is on the rise.

Highlights of the U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February) 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;
  • California: colder than average with odds favoring wetter than average conditions in northern California and drier than average conditions in southern California. 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;
  • 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.

This seasonal outlook does not 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.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to save lives and livelihoods and enhance the national economy. Working with partners, NOAA’s National Weather Service is building a Weather-Ready Nation to support community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather. Visit us online at and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

On the Web:

U.S. Drought Monitor:

National Integrated Drought Information System – U.S. Drought Portal:

U.S. Winter Outlook:

Hydrometeorological Prediction Center:

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October 20, 2011 10:38 am

You can see the maps associated with this forecast here:

Laurie Bowen
October 20, 2011 10:43 am

Wonder what the Farmers Almanac says?

Douglas DC
October 20, 2011 11:14 am

Got wood NW folks?

October 20, 2011 11:24 am

We have no earthly idea what will happen next month. Might get real cold, might get super cold, might be close to normal.
THEREFORE, we predict with 100.00% confidence and 100.00% scientific authority that the world will be 12 degrees warmer and sea level will be 30 feet higher as of the next century.

Tom in Florida
October 20, 2011 11:27 am

“Florida and south Atlantic Coast: … an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures….”
Geez, thanks a lot.

October 20, 2011 11:36 am

NOAA Translation: We expect a stunningly brutal winter but we are not going to put it in our forecast and we have a wild card to play to avoid a Met Office style lambasting.
Global temperatures are crashing and the block is building again. Heating Oil and Propane are nearing their all time highs in many states with the entire heating season ahead of them.

October 20, 2011 11:58 am

“Wonder what the Farmers Almanac says?”

Kelvin Vaughan
October 20, 2011 12:07 pm

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation.
I bet this prediction is spot on!

October 20, 2011 12:17 pm

My crystal ball is telling me that this Winter will be colder than last summer, with a thaw in Spring and warmer days next Summer compared to Oct-Feb average.

Brian H
October 20, 2011 12:38 pm

Now we have NOAA clue what’s going to happen.

October 20, 2011 1:08 pm

It would be far more interesting if they would risk suggesting some cause-and-effect scenarios.
For example, besides the usual La Nina set up, there seems to be an interesting path of warmer-than-normal water running from north of Hawaii to the west coast. Might not this tempt a few storms to take the “Pineapple Express” storm track? (Which is more common during El Ninos than La Ninas.)
I’m not saying that such a forecast would be correct. However if you don’t dare make your best guess, then you don’t learn by studying what happened instead. “Nothing Ventured; Nothing gained.”
All too often NOAA seems so fearful of being incorrect that it makes forecasts that are more or less mush, more befitting of a politician than a meteorologist. After all, unlike engineers, meteorologists are allowed to be incorrect on a regular basis. It goes with the territory. Therefore, considering you are allowed to be incorrect, you ought display some guts.

Theo Goodwin
October 20, 2011 1:11 pm

For anyone who has been watching the temperatures and who has considerable experience of weather in the USA, I think it is pretty clear that we are looking at a repeat of 1976 or ’77. D’Aleo is calling for a quick recovery, maybe a mild end to February. That means a ’76 instead of a ’77.
On a related topic, would someone in the drought stricken areas of Texas tell us whether agricultural workers are leaving those areas in larger than expected numbers. It is one thing to have a drought. It is another thing when a drought shuts down the economy.

October 20, 2011 1:59 pm
The large brown areas responsible for the dry conditions, has grown as the Geo-magnetic field strength has weakened, and caused the gap between the polar jets and the tropical moisture to diverge, more than the normal patterns produced with higher solar activity levels in the past three solar cycles. The maps generated on my web site are showing the normal patterns, from previous years, with the higher magnetic activity levels that would be generating ions to form precipitation in the affected areas.
On examination of the differences between my forecast maps made four years ago, you can see the missing rainfall due to the lower Geo-magnetic activity that has resulted from the slower solar activity. Most of the normal pattern is still there, it has just “magically dissolved” consistently, in these areas since the sun slowed down.
I am still in the process of updating the maps and adding Alaska, Canada, and Australia, currently working on the white board layout of the sites pages to add the new enlarged maps and expanded number of pages for the other countries. However in the date and location selection bar is a small icon of a calendar that will expand when clicked on, and allow you to look at maps from 2009 through 2013 in the old/current format.

October 20, 2011 3:45 pm

Laurie Bowen says:
October 20, 2011 at 10:43 am
Wonder what the Farmers Almanac says?

It is very similar to what Joe Bastardi was saying earlier in the year.

Laurie Bowen the Troll
Reply to  Wade
October 21, 2011 8:34 am

RE: Joe Bastardi: The Why behind the What
My stab in the dark, joe, is Figure 11 in the following link . . . . it’s why I say that the Astronomers and the Climatologists must communicate . . . .

R. Gates
October 20, 2011 4:16 pm

I predict some kind of weather will happen this winter that someone (warmist and skeptic alike) will point to in order to defend whatever climate perspective they happen to believe at the moment and they’ll post dozens of links to prove that what they are saying must be true.

October 20, 2011 5:21 pm

“…at a time when extreme weather is on the rise. ”
“…support community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather.”
I suppose the 2nd statement could refer to declines in household income making expenditures for heating more onerous(?), but what is the basis for the cliam that “extreme weather is on the rise”?
Does it merely mean that winter is upon us or what? I was under the impression that recent papers had shown that not to be the case-No?

October 20, 2011 5:24 pm

“Claim”-not “cliam” and “…that more extreme weather was not the case-No?”

October 20, 2011 5:32 pm

Well, at least NOAA has started using the new norms. In my leetle country they use the “nay-boring” country’s stupendous for-cast based on the norm of 1961-1990 to tell us leetle folks how it will be warmer ‘an usual this here coming winter see.

October 20, 2011 5:51 pm

Why do they say “…an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal…” ? That statement is pure BS. What they should say is “Our models are to primitive at this time to yield any useful information with respect to..”

Dave Springer
October 20, 2011 6:27 pm

The Little Girl can KMWA.

Laurie Bowen the Troll
Reply to  Dave Springer
October 21, 2011 8:57 am

or is that KMLWA?

Stephen Wilde
October 20, 2011 6:31 pm

“La Niña will influence weather patterns across the country, but as usual, it’s not the only climate factor at play. The “wild card” is the lesser-known and less predictable Arctic Oscillation that could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures this winter.”
That sounds remarkably like my proposition that the surface pressure distribution at any given time is a product of the interplay between bottom up oceanic influences and top down solar influences IF one takes the logical step of acccepting that the strength or weakness of the polar vortices is affected by the level of solar activity.
To explain longer term global climate changes all one then needs to do is extend that proposition over a 500/1000 year cycle such as from MWP to LIA to date which is also reflected in changes in solar activity such as that from 1600 (The Maunder Minimum) and 2000.
Meanwhile I have retained a print of northern hemisphere temperatures from the autumn and winter of 2007/08 and am comparing with the same for the coming autumn and winter 2011/12.
It is clear that there is deeper and more widespread cold present now than then for the same time of year.
Can someone produce the old and new data for comparative display here ?

October 20, 2011 6:37 pm

LarryD says:
October 20, 2011 at 11:58 am

“Wonder what the Farmers Almanac says?”

That URL is for “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” which is likely what Laurie had in mind.
“The Farmers Almanac” is entirely different other than having the same format, is produced in New England, and is an almanac et al. 🙂 They try to publish earlier than The Old Farmers Almanac to get some business through confusion.
It looks like the OFA is only selling their general outlook. The daily summary is fiction.

Laurie Bowen the Troll
Reply to  Ric Werme
October 21, 2011 9:01 am

I sit corrected as The Old Farmer’s Almanac is right!

October 20, 2011 9:11 pm

If the NOAA is anything like our wonderful Brit Met Office, it will be raining pick axe handles for the next four months!

Brian H
October 20, 2011 10:09 pm

Dave Springer says:
October 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm
The Little Girl can KMWA.

Be careful what you as(k) for …

October 20, 2011 10:26 pm

I’m going to predict arctic ice will approach 2007 lows, especially if there’s a prolonged period of negative AO. I’m also going out on a limb and I’m going to call January will be 0.5 C lower than the current average world temperatures.
Of course, I’m just a chemist, so if I’m wrong, it’s no big deal. But if I’m right, I’m AMAZING!

Dr. Lurtz
October 21, 2011 6:34 am

Let’s see:
equal chance equals 1/2.
Warmer = 1/2
Same = 1/2
Colder = 1/2
Chance that NOAA is right 1/2*1/2*1/2=1/8
Chance that NOAA is wrong = 1-1/8 = 7/8
I used a weather computer to figure this out…

October 21, 2011 3:03 pm

R. Gates says @ October 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm
I predict R. Gates prediction will most definitely be spot-on!
Let’s see all the different types who try to ‘hang their hat’ on this witer’s weather outcomes.

Brian H
October 24, 2011 11:52 pm

Laurie Bowen the Troll says:
October 21, 2011 at 8:57 am
or is that KMLWA?

Lily, is that you? C’mere …

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