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What Will Winter 2013-14 Have In Store?

November 21, 2013

By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James West

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With Thanksgiving around the corner, the chill of winter can`t be far behind. Much of the U.S. has already seen a few Arctic outbreaks this autumn, so we must be in for a cold winter, right? Not necessarily.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) has just released its weather outlook for the winter of 2013-14 and it appears to match closely with what WeatherBug is predicting as well. While long-term weather trends can be notoriously hard to forecast, here`s the latest thinking:

Both NOAA`s and WeatherBug`s winter temperature outlook look very similar. Large stretches of the U.S., including the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, Rockies, central Plains, Mid-South, Great Lakes and most of the East Coast have an equal chance of seeing above, below or normal temperatures this winter. Both forecasts see the northern Plains and Upper Midwest having a greater chance of seeing below-normal temperatures while most of the Southwest, southern Plains, Texas and Deep South have a greater chance of having a warmer than normal winter.

The only difference in the temperature outlook occurs in the Great Basin, California and interior Northwest. The WeatherBug forecast predicts greater chance of having warmer than normal winter compared to the government`s equal chance.

The precipitation outlook is quite similar between the two organizations as well. Both have parts of the Southwest and Southeast having a better chance of being drier than normal, while parts of the northern Rockies and Intermountain West having a better than average chance of being wetter than normal. There are slight differences in the outlooks, with WeatherBug`s forecast showing a wider area of Southeast, Southwest and California being drier than normal. The WeatherBug forecast also sees the Missouri and central Mississippi Valley being drier than normal.

Driving the similar outlook is the neutral La Nina/El Nina pattern. The surface water temperatures of the Pacific Ocean off South America`s west coast are not exhibiting colder -- La Nina -- or warmer -- El Nino-- than normal temperatures. When these cold or warm water conditions develop during the winter, weather patterns across North America are altered from their normal winter patterns, creating pronounced extremes in temperature and precipitation. This year`s weather will be driven by short-term climate patterns that are hard to predict a week or two ahead but can still send waves of cold air south out the Arctic followed by warm spells as the frigid air retreats. Often times, these wild swings still create near-normal average temperatures when you look at the entire season.

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