NOAA Releases Official Winter Forecast for US

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its official winter forecast for December 2022 through February 2023, and it looks like the weather phenomenon La Niña is returning for a third consecutive year. This means warmer-than-average temperatures in the southwest, Gulf Coast, and eastern seaboard. The NOAA also predicts a drier-than-average winter in the south. Additionally, the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northern Rockies, and Pacific Northwest will most likely have a wetter-than-average winter.

La Niña is the colder counterpart to El Niño. It’s an atmospheric phenomenon that is caused when the Pacific Ocean cools. Warm water from around South America is blown by strong westerly winds across the Pacific toward Indonesia. The colder deep-sea waters then rise from the Pacific, creating the La Niña weather pattern. This can affect weather all over the globe.

“The hardworking forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center produce timely and accurate seasonal outlooks and short-term forecasts year-round,” said the director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Michael Farrar. “NOAA’s new supercomputers are enabling us to develop even better, more detailed forecast capabilities, which we’ll be rolling out in the coming years.”

NOAA Predicts Warmer-Than-Average Temps This Winter, Plus Is Still Monitoring Drought Conditions

In partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), the NOAA is closely monitoring intense drought conditions. The western US in particular is still experiencing a massive drought since late 2020. In places like Seattle, Lake Mead, and the Mississippi River, drought conditions are critical.

Seattle is sizzling and dry, as the city has experienced an unusually warm start to autumn. Wildfires raging through Washington State aren’t helping either, creating poor air quality that exacerbates the drought. “Unfortunately, Seattle’s kind of in a bowl, if you will, because we’ve got the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east, so it traps the smoke pretty efficiently throughout the metro area,” said Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. “It’s really hard to get relief.”

Additionally, Lake Mead on the Colorado River has taken a beating this year. Water levels are at an all-time low, and the reservoir usually provides water to around 25 million people. This water is so crucial that the state of California is urging residents to cut back on their water use. California will also conserve 130 billion gallons from Lake Mead per year, from 2023 to 2026.

“This water, which would otherwise be used by California’s communities and farms, will meaningfully contribute to stabilizing the Colorado River reservoir system,” the state’s top water agencies wrote in a letter addressed to the federal government.

The Mississippi River is also at record low levels. Barges used for transporting animal feed, grains, and soybeans have been halted. Farmers and truck drivers are struggling to find open grain elevators to drop off their products. Islands in the river formerly inaccessible can now be reached on foot. And residents are finding boats from the 1800s, fossils, and human remains in the dry riverbed.

What the NOAA Predicts This Winter

“Drought conditions are now present across approximately 59% of the country, but parts of the Western U.S and southern Great Plains will continue to be the hardest hit this winter,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “With the La Niña climate pattern still in place, drought conditions may also expand to the Gulf Coast.”

Essentially, much of the northern United States will experience below-average temperatures this winter. In contrast, the southern US will experience higher-than-average temps, while the middle stretch of the US could go either way. The southern half of the country will also be seeing lower-than-average rainfall, while the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest are looking at more-than-average.