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El Niño Winter: Warm and Dry in the North, Cold and Wet in the South

The winter of 2015-16 could be a dry one in the northern Rocky Mountains, around the Great Lakes, and in Alaska and Hawaii, while Southern California and southern states from Arizona to Florida might be in for an unusually wet winter. Forecasters for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based that prediction Thursday on a very...

The winter of 2015-16 could be a dry one in the northern Rocky Mountains, around the Great Lakes, and in Alaska and Hawaii, while Southern California and southern states from Arizona to Florida might be in for an unusually wet winter.

Forecasters for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based that prediction Thursday on a very strong El Niño event that they expect to continue until the spring of 2016.

The El Niño also could make for a warmer than usual winter across the northern tier of states from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes, while winter in southern states could be unusually cold, the NOAA forecasters said.

But Mike Halpert, Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, cautioned that the forecast for the coming winter is not a “guarantee.”

“Just because something is favored doesn’t guarantee it will happen,” Halpert said.

And Kevin Werner, Director of NOAA’s Western Regional Climate Services in Seattle, said one season of above-normal precipitation in California will not erase the drought that has gripped the state for four years.

For the drought to be eliminated, California would have to receive three times its average rainfall this winter, and that’s not likely to happen, he said. During the wettest winter on record—1982-83—only about twice the normal amount of rainfall fell, Werner said.

North Carolina author Willie Drye’s new bookFor Sale-American Paradise, will be published October 21 by Lyons Press.

 

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Meet the Author

Willie Drye
Willie Drye is an award-winning author and a contributing editor for National Geographic News. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.