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December, January, February Seasonal Forecast Still On Course

NOAA image of winter temperature outlook for December 2006 through February 2007.Oct. 19, 2006 Meteorologists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center released the latest seasonal outlook, which reiterates this winter is likely to be warmer than the 30-year norm (1971-2000) over much of the nation, yet cooler than last year's very warm winter season. NOAA's heating degree day forecast for December, January and February projects a two percent warmer winter than the 30-year average but about eight percent cooler than last year. Meanwhile, a strengthening El Niño event continues to develop in the equatorial Pacific. Although there has been early season snowfall in Buffalo and wintry weather in the upper Midwest and Rockies this month, NOAA's seasonal meteorologists say there is not much correlation between fall weather and the winter season. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter temperature outlook for December 2006 through February 2007. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The Seasonal Outlook
Overall, for December 2006 through February 2007, seasonal forecasters expect warmer-than-average temperatures across parts of the West, Southwest, Plains states, Midwest, parts of the Northeast and northern mid-Atlantic region, as well as most of Alaska. Near-average temperatures are favored for parts of the Southeast, while below-average temperatures are anticipated for Hawaii. Maine, the southern mid-Atlantic region, the Tennessee Valley, much of Texas and California, and the intermountain West have equal chances of warmer, cooler, and near-normal temperatures this winter. "Cooler-than-normal winter temperatures over Hawaii are still quite mild, with highs in the major cities expected to be in the 70s," said Michael Halpert, head of forecast operations at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA image of winter precipitation outlook for December 2006 through February 2007.The precipitation outlook calls for wetter-than-average conditions across the Southwest from central and southern California to Texas and for Florida and the south Atlantic Coast. Drier-than-average conditions are favored in the Ohio Valley, the northern Rockies and Hawaii. Other regions have equal chances of drier, wetter or near average precipitation. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter precipitation outlook for December 2006 through February 2007. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

(For the seasonal outlook, temperature and precipitation averages vary from location to location and are based on the 1971-2000 time period.)

NOAA's Seasonal Drought Outlook, also updated today, reflects the pattern of rainfall expected this winter. This pattern is expected to improve drought conditions across Arizona, Texas, portions of the Plains and Southeast. Drought is predicted to develop across parts of Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

NOAA image of winter outlook for December 2006 through February 2007, including the position of the jetstream.The Strength & Impacts of El Niño
At present, weak El Niño conditions (warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, and other indicators) have developed across the tropical Pacific during the past few months. Current conditions and various forecasts imply that El Niño conditions may strengthen during the next few months. "However, this event is not expected to reach the magnitude of the very strong 1997-1998 El Niño episode," said Vernon Kousky, research meteorologist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter outlook for December 2006 through February 2007, including the position of the jetstream. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

El Niño events influence the position and strength of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, which in turn affects the winter precipitation and temperature patterns across the country. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is responsible for forecasting and monitoring El Niño events for the U.S. Over the years, NOAA scientists have found that there tends to be some variety in impacts among El Niño events. The stronger the event, the more likely it becomes that much of the nation will experience a warmer than average winter. However, it is important to note, "El Niño does not always mean impending disaster," he added.

The Good and Bad Sides of El Niño
The state of Florida illustrates most reliably the good and bad sides of El Niño. For example, scientists at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University, a NOAA partner, note that during El Niño winters the probability of severe freezes in the Southeast is very low. Major freezes in central Florida in the last 100 years occurred during El Niño Southern Oscillation, ENSO, neutral years. The threat of wildfires and drought also are greatly reduced in Florida due to expected above normal precipitation.

However, studies conducted at the NOAA National Weather Service field office in Melbourne, Fla., find when there is an El Niño event there is an increase in severe weather activity during the winter and spring for Florida. Floridians should remember in later winter and spring killer tornadoes tend to occur late at night and NOAA Weather Radio can be an invaluable tool for alerting people of potential danger after they've turned off the TV and gone to bed.

The NOAA National Weather Service has a variety of weather safety information online to help keep you safe. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center will issue its final U.S. Winter Outlook for the 2006-2007 season on November 16, 2006.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Climate Prediction Center Seasonal Outlooks

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

U.S. Seasonal Outlooks Predict Potential Future U.S. Climate & Weather

NOAA Forecast Products

NOAA Winter Weather Preparedness

NOAA El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion

NOAA Drought Information Center

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