STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — This year across the U.S., Joe Bastardi, AccuWeather chief long-range forecaster, is forecasting harsh cold and snow from the Northwest to the Great Lakes and New England, an early winter for the Northeast, a wintry mess for the mid-Atlantic and Midwest and abnormally warm, dry conditions from Southern California to the Carolinas.
The main player governing the forecast for this winter is the phenomenon called La Nina, when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal.
La Nina strengthens as the departure increases. La Nina winters are typically synonymous with harsh conditions across the northern tier of the U.S. and drier-than-normal conditions throughout the southern tier.
Bastardi is pointing to areas from northern New England to the Great Lakes, northern Plains and interior Northwest for the worst of this winter’s snow and cold. This zone includes cities from Portland, Maine to Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis and Spokane, Wash., with above-normal snow and ice in the forecast.
The good news is that the building of the snowpack across the Pacific Northwest is essential to hydroelectric production in the spring and summer.
While temperatures may average out close to normal in eastern parts of this zone, including Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y., these areas will have to endure several outstanding cold shots with larger-than-normal temperature swings.
Bastardi says that January through March will be especially “wicked” for people across the northern Rockies and northern Plains.
Just because the season’s worst will stay farther north across the nation this year, it doesn’t mean people along the mid-Atlantic and New England coast will escape winter altogether.
Nor’easters that do form will lack moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and, as a result, not produce the huge quantity of snow seen last season.
Bastardi maintained, “A quick start to winter in the East may have people concerned about another snowmageddon, but we expect that much of the season’s snow will come relatively early in the season.”
People across the East will also have to deal with winter’s chill right off the bat, as temperatures are expected to be near or below normal during most of November and December.
Across the southern tier of the nation from the interior Southwest to the Gulf Coast and Carolinas, Bastardi is calling for a “non-winter” this year with above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
That will be good news for residents of Oklahoma and northern Texas, who may only see a tenth of the near record snowfall that affected them last season.
Though it sounds nice, this forecast does not come without consequences. In fact, the overall dry weather pattern expected across the southern tier of the nation could lead the region into a “perilous period” similar to the 1950s and 1960s, which was drier-than-normal.
Drought conditions and water shortages could become major problems from Southern California into the Deep South.
Since Southern California receives most of its yearly rainfall during the winter months, a dry winter will lend to a serious wildfire threat along with water shortages down the road.
The Deep South is already in the midst of a severe drought, and a lack of precipitation this winter will only make matters worse.