AccuWeather's US winter forecast for 2018-2019 season

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer
October 15, 2018, 2:07:05 PM EDT

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The return of an El Niño weather pattern will have a significant influence on the winter season.

Mild air will linger in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic before cold weather takes hold in January and February. Some Interstate-95 cities will notice a significant temperature dip compared to last year.

Meanwhile, an active southern storm track will send snow and ice to parts of the southern Plains this winter.

2018-2019 US winter forecast


El Niño to influence weather in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, eastern Ohio Valley

Once again, El Niño will influence the winter weather across the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes.

The season will start out mild for much of the region before colder weather digs in its heels in January and February.

“New York City and Philadelphia may wind up 4 to 8 degrees colder this February compared to last February,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

In the mid-Atlantic states, a few big snowstorms are likely. Most of the action will dodge the far Northeast, however.

In the Great Lakes, lake-effect snow will be less frequent than normal, despite above-normal water temperatures. An uptick is possible in late winter, but, for the season as a whole, residents will receive less than they are accustomed to.

Cold air and storms to blast the Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast

A very active winter is predicted for the Southeast, Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast this season.

January and February will be particularly conducive to snow and ice threats, with multiple storms forecast for the region.

As cold shots become more frequent from mid- to late season, the central and western Gulf Coast will be susceptible to frost and freezes.

It will bear a stark contrast to the winter of 2017-2018, when February brought well above-normal temperatures to the area.

Come late winter, Florida will need to be on alert for severe weather and flooding.

Mild start to the season for western Ohio Valley, Midwest, central/northern Plains

Similar to areas farther east, the Midwestern states and central and northern Plains will enjoy a mild start to the season before cold outbreaks arrive later on.

January and February are predicted to bring a dramatic change in temperatures, Pastelok said.

Snowfall in these regions is likely to remain below normal, with storms occurring less frequently than usual.

“It won’t be a big year for snow in the major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis,” he added.

Snow and ice to strike the southern Plains

An active southern storm track will spell snow and ice events for parts of the southern Plains this winter.

While December could welcome a few storms, they are expected to become more frequent in January and February.

Areas from Dallas, and north of Houston, stretching into Little Rock will be susceptible.

Meanwhile, blasts of cold air could be problematic for area farmers.

“Anytime you get these deep shots of cold air like we’re calling for in the late season, there’s always a big threat in agricultural areas around central Texas," Pastelok said.

“We’re worried there could be shots of cold getting down into the mid-20s in some places.”

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Heat and dryness to dominate the Southwest

A typical El Niño brings wet and cool weather to the Southwest; however, the pattern is forecast to be a bit different this season.

The interior Southwest is likely to end up drier, with more precipitation reaching central California, particularly midseason.

According to Pastelok: “It will still be a bit of a down year as far as moisture goes. El Niño may not give them what they need and they could go back into a drought next year.”

At times, the region may experience slightly above-normal temperatures, especially in February.

Cities such as Flagstaff, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada, could run as high as 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Snow and rain may target the Northwest and Rockies

A phenomenon known as a pineapple connection could take place this winter, drawing a deep flow of moisture into the western U.S.

“Places on the West Coast could get hammered,” Pastelok said.

Central and Northern California to Oregon are likely to experience the heaviest precipitation, with flooding and mudslides not out of the question.

January into very early February is forecast to be the stormiest period for the Northwest and Northern California before conditions dry out in February.

"Ski areas from Washington to central and Northern California will have a good year with an extra boost possible from the late December and January pattern," Pastelok said.

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