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NOAA image of forecast winter precipitation for the USA.Dec. 18, 2003 — The Winter Solstice begins on Monday, December 22, but if you ask many people living in the U.S. they might tell you winter is already here! 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?” (Click NOAA image for larger view of forecast winter precipitation for the USA. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.)

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 U. S., 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.

NOAA image of forecast winter temperatures for the USA.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. (Click NOAA image for larger view of forecast winter temperatures for the USA. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.)

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.

Here’s what you can expect
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 - 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.

“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.”

NOAA will issue its spring outlook in March 2004.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is part of the NOAA National Weather Service, which is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Outlook Maps, Graphics and Tables

NOAA USA Hazards Assessment

NOAA Storm Watch

NOAA Drought Information Center

Media Contact:
Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, (301) 763-8000 ext. 7163 or John Leslie, NOAA Climatic Data Center, (301) 457-5005