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- Federal forecasters are predicting an impact from La Niña on winter temperatures and precipitation. The Great Lakes and portions of the Rockies could get slammed with higher-than-usual snow totals. The South and the Northeast are expected to get a warmer-than-usual winter, with the Gulf Coast remaining dry.
It’s been a dramatic fall across the United States.
But what’s in store for the winter, which officially kicks off December 21?
Forecasters at the National Weather Service say they have seen some cooler-than-normal water swirling in the Pacific Ocean, coupled with stronger-than-usual winds above the water.
That has prompted an official La Niña watch. La Niña is a weather pattern that disrupts normal winter across North America. Typically, it causes the US to experience a wetter-than-usual winter across most of the top states and a drier-than-usual one across the bottom.
The “little girl” from the Pacific can also usher in unusual temperatures. Here’s how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks things may look across the continental US from December to March:
The model suggests that many Americans could get a balmy winter, with mild temperatures wafting across much of the South and the Northeast.
But it may get chillier than normal in other areas, including the Pacific Northeast, northern Wyoming, and North Dakota. Snow totals this year could be very high across the northern plains – from the Rockies to the Great Lakes – giving skiers a reason to rejoice. Hawaii and western Alaska are also expected to have a soggy, precipitous season ahead.
Of course, experts caution that this is only a model and that weather is still (always) up in the air.
And not every forecaster is expecting La Niña. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a controversial source the Houston meteorologist Matt Lanza says is “about as good as going to a psychic,” bases its long-term predictions largely on the sun’s output. The OFA is predicting a cold, wet, snowy year across almost the entire US (with one bright spot of mild temperatures around Lake Superior). That’s because the sun has been going through a period of low activity lately called “solar minimum,” with fewer sunspots and solar flares bursting out of the sun.
The OFA acknowledges, though, that “most scientists believe that the magnitude of changes in solar activity is insufficient to have a significant effect on Earth’s weather.”
Americans will have to wait until winter’s official start on the shortest day of the year (Dec. 21) to see how this all shakes out on the ground.