NOAA releases their official outlook for this winter - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

NOAA releases their official outlook for this winter

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Last winter was one of the warmest on record for much of the U.S. including Chicago. It was completely unexpected by forecasters and climatologists coast-to-coast. In hindsight, there were several key weather patterns that all came together for the perfect non-winter for us and record snow and cold for parts of Europe, Alaska and Asia.

So, how do you follow something that highly unusual? What can we expect this winter? On Thursday, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released their outlook for the 2012-2013 winter in the United States.

  • 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.
  • Areas ravaged by extreme drought over the past year are unlikely to see much relief from drought conditions this winter.

Here in Chicago, forecasters at the NWS in Romeoville say our winter won't be as warm as last year, so put the sandals and swim wear away. Instead, temperatures are expected to be close to normal or slightly warmer than normal.

Snowfall is also expected to hover either side of normal. The question is...what is normal for Chicago? We had four consecutive winters 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011 with more than 50 inches of snow or greater. That is the only time since records began in the 1870's that so many back-to-back years had such significant snow. We also experienced the 3rd largest blizzard in city history and the cherry on top was our absentee winter last year. The last time we had a winter with close to the average temperature of 27 F and average snowfall of 37" was in 2006-2007.

The wild card in all of this is El Nino. The warming of Equatorial Pacific waters which drives weather patterns across the United states. We were watching a strengthening El Nino until late last month. Now, it appears to be weakening at an accelerated pace which is something many climatologists have not seen before. If El Nino becomes neutral we could see a near normal winter. If it re-strengthens Chicago could see a warmer and less snowy winter. There is also the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation which can change phases several times over a winter. They are much less predictable and they are the keepers of cold air outbreaks which we did not see last winter.

Bottom line is experts say a repeat of last year is not likely, but at this point old man winter has not fully showed his hand and this is Chicago where anything has and can happen, so be prepared for anything. Oh and as for a white Christmas....there's a 50/50 chance of that.

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