What weather will the rest of the winter bring?


CAMP SPRINGS, Md. – With record low temperatures in the Northeast, winter has already been a force in 2004.

But with this year poised to being one of the wettest years on record in many states east of the Mississippi, people are asking, “What will the rest of the winter bring?”

Final outlook. In its final winter outlook update, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center is predicting January, February and March will bring above average temperatures to much of the western United States, as well as the central and northern Plains and much of Alaska, and below average temperatures to the Southeast from eastern Texas through the Carolinas, including much of Florida.

Precipitation is likely to be above average in the Pacific Northwest and western and central Texas, and below average over the Southwest, Florida and the Lower Missouri Valley.

When considering the season as a whole, the remaining parts of the nation, including the Northeast, can expect equal chances of above-, below- or near-normal temperatures and precipitation.

However, within the three-month period, variable and changing jet stream patterns are likely to continue bringing periods of storminess and swings of temperature extremes, as seen in the Northeast thus far.

Drought conditions. NOAA forecasters expect the existing multi-year drought conditions in much of the interior West and parts of the Central Plains to continue, with the best chances for some improvement from the Northern Rockies westward to the Northern Cascades. In many areas, especially Arizona, New Mexico, and the western Great Plains, drought will likely persist and contribute to lingering, long-term water shortages.

Persistent rains and saturated ground in parts of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic raise the concern for flooding potential.

Temps. The U.S. 2004 winter outlook update for January through March calls for warmer-than-average conditions along the northern tier of the country from Washington eastward to Michigan, throughout the remainder of the West including Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, and in the inter-mountain states and central Great Plains to Iowa and Nebraska.

Above average temperatures are also anticipated over most of Alaska.

Cooler-than-average temperatures are expected across eastern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, northern and central Florida, and the Carolinas.

For other parts of the nation, January through March will have equal chances of above-, below-, or near-normal temperatures. Precipitation during January through March is likely to be above average in Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho, as well as in much of western and central Texas.

Drier-than-average conditions are favored in Arizona and nearby parts of each surrounding state, as well as in Nebraska, Kansas, eastern Iowa and northwest Missouri, and in Florida and southernmost parts of Georgia through Louisiana.

The remainder of the country has equal chances of above-, below-, or near-normal precipitation during the period.

Pay attention. “December 2003 shows us just how variable winter patterns can be,” said Edward O’Lenic, meteorologist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. “It is important for people to pay close attention to local, daily weather forecasts so they can prepare for various precipitation types and temperature swings.”


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