The western half of the continental U.S. and central and northern Alaska could be in for a warmer-than-average winter, while most of Florida might be colder-than-normal December through February, according to NOAA's annual Winter Outlook.
Forecasters with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year's winter outlook less certain than previous years.
"This is one of the most challenging outlooks we've produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific."
When El Niño is present, warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall that in turn influence the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. An El Niño watch remains in effect because there's still a window for it to emerge.
Other climate factors can influence winter weather across the country. Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a prominent climate pattern, are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance. The NAO adds uncertainty to the winter outlook in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portions of the country.
Areas ravaged by extreme drought over the past year are unlikely to see much relief from drought conditions this winter.
In the 2012 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February) odds favor:
-Warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas, northward through the Central and Northern Plains and westward across the Southwest, the Northern Rockies, and eastern Washington, Oregon and California, as well as the northern two-thirds of Alaska.
-Cooler-than-average temperatures in Hawaii and in most of Florida, excluding the panhandle.
-Dryer-than-average conditions in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, including Idaho, western Montana, and portions of Wyoming, Utah and most of Nevada.
-Dryer-than-average conditions in the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and northern Missouri and eastern parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and western Illinois.
-Wetter-than-average conditions across the Gulf Coast states from the northern half of Florida to eastern Texas.
The rest of the country falls into the "equal chance" category, meaning these areas have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.
This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.
Many across the East may have thought that the calendar flipped back to winter due to the cold blast that brought a dramatic drop in temperatures and even snow to some communities.
A ferry has sunk off the coast of South Korea, leaving at least four dead and over 250 passengers missing.
Following some rain showers this Saturday, drier weather is in store for Boston by Monday to kick off the 118th annual Boston Marathon.
A mid-April snowstorm will focus on the northern Plains and Upper Midwest through Thursday, spreading snow from the Dakotas to Ontario.
Experts across the nation are searching for plausible solutions to the defects of the nation's over-stressed and antiquated power system before severe weather season takes full rein.
The United States has the highest concentration of tornadoes in the world, and understanding truth about tornadoes and what to do if one strikes can help save your life.
Oklahoma City, OH (1990)
93 mph wind gust - one of the strongest gust at Will Rogers Airport in the last 40 years.
Charleston, SC, reaches 32 degrees -- latest ever there. At Wilmington, NC, snow accumulated up to 6" on boards. Fayetteville, NC, had 4" on the 15th -- one of the latest snowstorms ever. Snow flurries as far south as Milledgeville, GA. Severe freeze from Georgia to Texas killed cotton.
Boston Harbor, MA (1851)
Famous Lighthouse Storm -- great tide whole gale destroyed Minot Lighthouse and its keepers; tide exceeded a staggering height of 1,723 feet.