Farmers preparing to batten down for another cold winter might consider easing up on the preparations, if choosing to follow NOAA's U.S. Winter Outlook.
The agency said Thursday in its 2014 winter forecast that while below average temperatures are favored in parts of the south-central and southeastern United States, above-average temperatures are most likely in the western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and New England.
The 2014 U.S. Winter Outlook is issued by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
While drought may improve in some portions of the U.S. this winter, California's record-setting drought will likely persist or intensify in large parts of the state, NOAA said. Nearly 60% of California is suffering from exceptional drought, with 2013 being the driest year on record.
Drought is, however, expected to improve in California's southern and northwestern regions, but not until December or January, NOAA expects.
"Complete drought recovery in California this winter is highly unlikely. While we're predicting at least a 2 in 3 chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow," said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
El Niño prospects
El Niño may still develop this winter, NOAA said in its 2014 Winter Outlook. Climate Prediction Center forecasters announced Oct. 9 that the ocean and atmospheric coupling necessary to declare an El Niño has not yet happened, so they continued the El Niño Watch with a 67% chance of development by the end of the year.
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Image source: NOAA
The Precipitation Outlook favors above-average precipitation across the southern tier, from the southern half of California, across the Southwest, South-central, and Gulf Coast states, Florida, and along the eastern seaboard to Maine.
Above-average precipitation also is favored in southern Alaska and the Alaskan panhandle. Below-average precipitation is favored in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, NOAA said.
Extreme cold east of Rockies unlikely
Last year's winter was exceptionally cold and snowy across most of the United States, east of the Rockies. A repeat of this extreme pattern is unlikely this year, although the 2014 NOAA Winter Outlook does favor below-average temperatures in the south-central and southeastern states.
In addition NOAA forecasts favors warmer-than-average temperatures in the Western U.S., extending from the west coast through most of the inter-mountain west and across the U.S.-Canadian border through New York and New England, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.
The rest of the country falls into the "equal chance" category, meaning that there is not a strong enough climate signal for these areas to make a prediction, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.
The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, updated Thursday and valid through January, predicts drought removal or improvement in portions of California, the Central and Southern Plains, the desert Southwest, and portions of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Drought is likely to persist or intensify in portions of California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state. New drought development is likely in northeast Oregon, eastern Washington state, and small portions of Idaho and western Montana.
The seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations, the agency noted. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.