It looks like winter will be warm and dry in the South, while the Pacific Northwest faces a colder and wetter than normal December through February, government forecasters said Thursday.
"The story of this winter is likely to be the dry conditions across the South," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.
There is a potential for drought developing in the Southeast, he said, specifically citing Florida.
A major factor in the outlook is the ongoing La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean which affects the movement of weather patterns across the country.
But the outlook is not guaranteed, Halpert said, and "the possibility of other outcomes exists."
The forecast by CPC, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, covers the months of December through January. Forecasts become much more accurate over shorter time periods.
The winter outlook issued Thursday:
_ Pacific Northwest: Colder and wetter than average with increased mountain snow extending into western Montana, which is good for the replenishment of water resources and winter recreation but can also lead to greater flooding and avalanche concerns.
_ California and the Southwest: Warmer and drier than average, which will probably worsen drought in these areas. All southern states are at risk of heightened wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring.
_ Northern Plains: Colder and wetter than average, probably with increased storminess and flooding.
_ Southern Plains, Gulf Coast States & Southeast: Warmer and drier than average, worsening drought conditions in these areas. All southern states are at risk of heightened wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring.
_ Florida: drier than average, with an equal chance for temperatures above, near or below normal. Above normal wildfire conditions.
_ Ohio and Tennessee Valleys: Warmer and wetter than average, probably with increased storminess and flooding.
_ Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Equal chances for above, near or below normal temperatures and precipitation. This is a tricky region to forecast with influences more often short-term, and generally predictable only a week or so in advance. If enough cold air and moisture are in place, areas north of the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast could see above average snow.
_ Central U.S.: Equal chances of above, near or below normal temperatures and precipitation.
_ Hawaii: Drier than normal through November, then wetter than normal December through February. Statewide, the current drought is expected to continue through the winter, with several locations on track to have the driest year on record. Drought recovery is more likely on the smaller islands of Kauai and Molokai, and over the windward slopes of the Big Island and Maui.
_ Alaska: Odds favor colder than average temperatures with equal chances of above or below normal precipitation. The interior and southern portions of the state are currently drier than normal. A dry winter may set Alaska up for a greater chance of above normal wildfire conditions in the spring.