America's Best Forecasters Give 5 Predictions For This Winter

Because of a confusing El nino situation, the weather predictors at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are having some trouble predicting the forecast for this winter. It will likely be a little cooler than last year, but for most of the nation, we have no idea what winter has in store.

El nino, also called the southern oscillation, is a warming of the tropical Pacific ocean that happen about every five years. This warming results in warmer, dryer than average winters. This year, NOAA researchers had been watching the warming develop, but suddenly, a month ago, the trend reversed.

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” Mike Hal pert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction centre, said in a teleconference. “In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific.”

NOAA Winter Outlook 2012 temperatureNOAA’s predictions about temperatures this winter.

Photo: NOAA

NOAA Winter Outlook 2012 precipitationNOAA’s predictions about precipitation this winter.

Photo: NOAA

Even with the uncertainty, there are a few predictions they were able to make:

  • The western half of the continental U.S. and central and northern Alaska could be in for a warmer-than-average winter.
  • Hawaii and most of Florida (except the panhandle) might be colder-than-normal December through February.
  • Areas ravaged by extreme drought over the past year are unlikely to see much relief from drought conditions this winter.
  • Dryer-than-average conditions in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California and the Midwest.
  • Wetter than average conditions along the Gulf coast.

The rest of the country is labelled “equal chances” because from the climate models and forecasting, meaning there’s a tossup between a warmer and wetter season.

This stands in contention with previous forecasts and a recent paper from other researchers, who have floated the idea that the extreme low that sea ice hit this summer would result in a terrible winter, because studies have suggested the warmer ocean waters would diminish warm winds in the Northeast.

Interestingly, the NOAA scientists brought up an good point — the last time sea ice hit a record low, in 2007, we didn’t have a horrible winter. And who knows, El nino could still come back in full force and change all these predictions.

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