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“La Niña” Is Coming: Expect a Cold Winter in the North, Dry in the South

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Winter Outlook forecast is in, and this year La Niña will dominate the winter. The natural phenomenon’s patterns were first spotted back in August, with cooler surface water temperatures in the Eastern Pacific.

What is “El Niño” and “La Niña”?

The National Ocean Service defines El Niño and La Niña as phases in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO) that can affect global weather and climate. El Niño and La Niña are identified based on the ocean’s surface temperature “across the east-central Equatorial Pacific” (National Ocean Service).

La Niña Winter generally means warmer and drier weather for southern portions of the U.S. with cooler and wetter weather for northern regions of the U.S. The last La Niña winter we had in the U.S. was between 2017 and 2018, according to NOAA. Typically, El Niño and La Niña events happen every two to seven years with each ranging from nine and 12 months in duration.

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We break down NOAA’s predictions by region to help you better understand and plan for the upcoming winter season.

Predictions for the Pacific Northwest and Midwest

Parts of the Pacific Northwest and Midwest should expect a wetter and colder winter than normal. According to the Climate Prediction Center states like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota will see colder temperatures this winter. For precipitation, this forecast stretches to include Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Drought conditions, however, will lessen for parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. This could potentially bring relief to these states which have been battling a record-breaking wildfire season with more than 46,000 fires and over 8 million acres burned, according to the Center for Disaster Philosophy. Both reports beat previous 10-year averages for the number of fires and acres burned.

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Predictions for the West, South, and East

Even though relief on drought conditions is expected, parts of the West, South, and East may continue experiencing warmer and drier conditions this winter. This forecast stretches from as far west as California to as far East as Maine. Drought conditions are predicted to develop and continue or worsen for a large portion of the West and Southwest with smaller swaths in the Midwest, East, and Southeast.

Predictions for Alaska and Hawaii

The Far North and Alaskan Peninsula may see above average temperatures and higher chances of precipitation while the South Central portion may see below average temperatures with lower chances of precipitation.

Meanwhile, residents of Hawaii may be able to enjoy above average temperatures but also see above average precipitation for the winter.

Equal Chance Predictions for the Middle Third of the U.S.

An equal chance for normal temperatures and precipitation is predicted for the central US.

Portions of states from the West to the Midwest are predicted to see normal temperatures, while some states from the towards the Northeast are predicted to see normal precipitation.


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Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.