NOAA: Drought Conditions Expected To Improve In Most Areas Of The Southwest This Winter

Most of the country will see winter temperatures above normal though slightly cooler than last year's very warm winter, according to the winter weather outlook announced on Oct. 10 by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, who produce the outlook, stated that drought conditions also are expected to improve in most areas of the Southwest, while some drought conditions are anticipated in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

The projections, based on the last edition of the U.S. Seasonal Outlook, were issued by NOAA in conjunction with the 2006-2007 Winter Fuels Outlook Conference.

Weak El Niño conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific and are expected to persist through the winter, possibly strengthening during the next few months to an event of moderate strength. However, this event is not expected to reach the magnitude of the very strong 1997-1998 El Niño event.

"The strengthening El Niño event will influence the position and strength of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn will affect winter precipitation and temperature patterns across the country," said Michael Halpert, lead forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "This event is likely to result in fewer cold air outbreaks in the country than would be expected to occur in a typical non-El Niño winter."

The winter outlook reflects a blend of factors associated with weak to moderate strength El Niño events across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, combined with longer-term trends.

From December through February, the lower 48 states can expect about 2 percent fewer heating degree days than average, but about 5 to 10 percent more heating degree days than last year's very warm winter. (A heating degree day is used as an indication of fuel consumption. One heating degree day is given for each degree that the daily mean temperature is below 65 degrees.)

Seasonal forecasters also expect warmer than average temperatures across the West, the Southwest, the Plains states, the Midwest, most of the Northeast, and the northern mid-Atlantic, as well as most of Alaska. Near-average temperatures are expected for parts of the Southeast, while below-average temperatures are anticipated for Hawaii. Maine, the southern mid-Atlantic, the Tennessee Valley, and much of Texas have equal chances of warmer, cooler, and near-normal temperatures this winter.

The outlook for winter precipitation calls for wetter than average conditions across the Southwest from Southern California to Texas and for Florida and the south Atlantic Coast. Drier than average conditions are expected in the Tennessee Valley, the northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii. Other regions have equal chances of drier, wetter, or near normal precipitation. The pattern of rainfall in the West is expected to improve drought conditions across Arizona and Texas, but result in drought across parts of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center will update the U.S. Winter Weather Outlook on Oct. 19 and again on Nov. 16.

Seasonal Outlooks: