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Expect a Warm, Dry Winter in Much of the U.S.

Conditions in the U.S. could be geographically split by La Niña.


Bad news for Americans who love snow, runny noses, and the pink, reptilian quality of chapped skin: NOAA released its 2016 winter outlook, and it indicates above-average changes of warmth in many places, including historical meat lockers like Alaska and Maine.

“Warmer than normal conditions are most likely across the southern U.S., extending northward through the central Rockies, in Hawaii, in western and northern Alaska, and in northern New England,” writes the agency. “Cooler conditions are most likely across the northern tier from Montana to western Michigan.”

Predicted conditions from December to February are shown in the above graphic, with yellow shades indicating areas with higher chances of warmth and blue shades of coolness. Unshaded regions have equal chances for above, near, or below-average temperatures. For the cold-adverse, it sure seems like a good winter to fly to Hawaii, with greater than 70 percent odds of balminess.

However, Hawaii also has increased chances of precipitation, as does Alaska, the Great Lakes region, and the northern Rockies. Much of the South is expected to remain relatively dry, and drought is likely to continue or worsen in California, New England, and many of the Gulf states.


The north/south divide in temperature and moisture is a classic sign of La Niña, which could develop (to a minor degree) this year. If La Niña does pull at the reins of U.S. weather, it could mean a difference in powder accumulations in a couple places—“above-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies,” says NOAA, “and below-average snowfall in the mid-Atlantic.”

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.