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December, January, February Climate Outlook

NOAA image of 2004-2005 Winter Temperature Outlook.Nov. 18, 2004 ó With winter approaching, NOAA today issued its final U.S. winter outlook for December 2004 through February 2005. Forecasters at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center predict an enhanced likelihood of cooler-than-average temperatures in much of the East, Middle Atlantic and South; warmer-than-average temperatures in Alaska, Hawaii and the West; wetter-than-average conditions from New Mexico through Texas to Louisiana; and drier-than-average conditions over the Ohio Valley and the Northwest for this winter. (Click NOAA image for larger view of 2004-2005 Winter Temperature Outlook. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Today's forecast implies possible improvement in drought conditions in limited portions of the Southwest and possible worsening dryness in the Northwest and Ohio Valley regions.

NOAA image of 2004-2005 Winter Precipitation Outlook.Much of the focus of what lies behind the forecast is the continuation of a weak El Niño event in the tropical Pacific, which NOAA scientists are closely monitoring. "This event is expected to continue into early 2005, but remain much weaker than the 1997-1998 El Niño that greatly affected parts of California," said Wayne Higgins, principal scientist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. (Click NOAA image for larger view of 2004-2005 Winter Precipitation Outlook. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"El Niño wintertime impacts vary over the United States depending on the strength of the event," said Higgins. Warmer-than-average conditions are expected in the West, while cooler and wetter-than-average conditions are expected for portions of the South and Southeast. "This is consistent with a typical El Niño pattern and has been factored into NOAA's Winter Outlook," he added.

Regional Outlook, December through February:

  • An enhanced likelihood of below-average precipitation is expected in Washington and Oregon, from the Great Lakes to the Tennessee Valley and in Hawaii. Odds for above-average precipitation are increased from New Mexico across Texas and southern Oklahoma to Louisiana.
  • Above-average temperatures are more likely in Alaska, Hawaii, the West and the Rockies. Odds for below-average temperatures are higher-than-average in the mid-Atlantic Coast States, the southern Ohio Valley, the Tennessee Valley, the Southeast, the lower Mississippi Valley and eastern sections of Texas.
  • Over the rest of the continental United States, there are equal chances for precipitation and temperatures to be above normal, normal or below normal.

Astronomical winter begins on December 21, when the noontime sun is farthest south in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. However, meteorological winter, defined by the onset of winter-like weather conditions, occurs earlier as one moves northward. Meteorological winter, roughly speaking, begins over much of the continental United States on December 1.

This is the last U.S. seasonal outlook update for the 2004-05 winter.

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 nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Climate Prediction Center

NOAA Drought Information Center

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion

Weekly El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Update

Most Recent 2 Months Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Animation

El Niño and La Niña-related Winter Features over North America

Sea Surface Temperature Outlook

ENSO Impacts by Region

NOAA Storm Watch — Get the latest severe weather information across the USA

Media Contact:
Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, (301) 763-8000 ext. 7163