Much of the US could see a warmer-than-average winter season — here’s the forecast for your region

Snow storm New York City NYC blizzard winter
It could be snowy in the Great Lakes, but the southern states are projected to be warmer and drier than usual this winter. Mario Tama / Getty Images
  • Federal forecasters are predicting a La Niña impact on winter temperatures and precipitation.
  • The Great Lakes and portions of the Rockies could get slammed with higher-than-usual snow totals.
  • The South and Northeast are expected to get a warmer-than-usual winter, with the Gulf Coast remaining dry.

It’s been a dramatic fall across the United States.

Wildfires gutted wine country in Napa. Hurricanes pummelled the US from Puerto Rico to Houston, and an oddly springlike wave of warm sun hit the Northeast last week.

But what’s in store for the winter, which officially kicks off on December 21st?

Forecasters at the National Weather Service
say they’ve seen some cooler-than-normal water swirling in the Pacific Ocean, coupled with stronger-than-usual winds above the water.

That has prompted an official La Niña watch. The La Niña weather pattern disrupts normal winter across North America. Typically, the US gets a wetter than-usual winter across most of the top states and a drier-than-usual one across the bottom.

The so-called ‘little girl’ from the Pacific can also usher in unusual temperatures. Here’s how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks things might look across the continental US from December 2017 to March 2018:


The model suggests that many Americans could get a balmy winter, with mild temperatures wafting across much of the South and Northeast.

But it may get chillier than normal in other areas, including the Pacific Northeast, northern Wyoming, and North Dakota. Snow totals this year could be very high across the northern plains — from the Rockies to the Great Lakes — giving skiers a reason to rejoice. Hawaii and western Alaska are also expected to have a soggy, precipitous season ahead.

Of course, experts caution that this is only a model, and that weather is still (always) up in the air.

And not every forecaster is expecting La Niña. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a controversial source that Houston meteorologist Matt Lanza says is “about as good as going to a psychic”, bases its long-term predictions largely on the sun’s output. The OFA is predicting a cold, wet, snowy year across almost the entire US (with one bright spot of mild temperatures around Lake Superior). That’s because the sun has been going through a period of low activity lately called ‘solar minimum,’ with fewer sunspots and solar flares bursting out of the sun.

They admit, though, that “most scientists believe that the magnitude of changes in solar activity is insufficient to have a significant effect on Earth’s weather.”

Americans will have to wait until winter’s official start on the shortest day of the year (Dec. 21) to see how this all shakes out on the ground.