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Contact: Carmeyia Gillis
Drought Eased In Much Of East and Pacific Northwest
While temperatures remain near-to-above normal across much of the United States, and storms continue producing more rain than snow, signs of the transition to more winter-like patterns are in sight, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service said today.
In an extension of its 2001-02 winter outlook, forecasters predicted late December, and the January-March 2002 period will bring more extreme and frequent shifts in temperature and precipitation for the nation, including cold-air outbreaks, snow, rain and ice storms. Forecasters said the remainder of December will bring much colder temperatures in contrast to the record-breaking warmth some parts of the country experienced in November and early December. The official start of winter is Dec. 21.
Without El Niño, La Niña, Expect Variability
Without the influences of either El Niño and La Niña, forecasters said the winter will bring variable temperatures and precipitation. "We're seeing the likelihood of more variable weather and more winter-like pattern developing during the next week to 10 days, especially compared with the weather of November and early December," said Jim Laver, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, a part of NOAA Weather Service.
Laver added, "According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, November was the second warmest November in 107 years across the United States, but during the next 2-3 weeks, we expect a change toward a more variable pattern with an increase in the odds of colder and more wintry conditions in the Midwest and East as we close out 2001." (The warmest November on record occurred in 1997.)
Absent any El Niño or La Niña effects, the climate players that will contribute to the variability are the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation, said Wayne Higgins, CPC's principal scientist and expert on linking weather and climate. "We're watching these closely, because the AO can influence the number and intensity of cold-air outbreaks into the South and Nor'easters on the East Coast, and the MJO can impact the number of heavy rain events in the Pacific Northwest," he said.
Drought Picture More Promising
Forecasters said while two-thirds of the East Coast is in some stage of drought, recent rains have improved short-term dry conditions. "The current outlooks, which call for continued regular periods of precipitation heading into late December, offer additional hope for drought alleviation," said Douglas Le Comte, drought specialist at CPC.
And in a meteorological reversal of fortunes, the Pacific Northwest has seen increased amounts of rainfall compared to last year, Le Comte said. Cumulative rain and snow totals since Oct. 1 are 2-3 times as great as they were during last year at this time, with precipitation running above normal across the entire Pacific Northwest region so far this season, he said.
"Most locations west of the Cascades have picked up more than one foot of (liquid equivalent) precipitation since Oct. 1, and more is on tap in the coming weeks," Le Comte said, adding more rain and snow is needed in the coming months to rid the Northwest region of the long-term precipitation deficits, which still range from 1 to 2 feet since the fall of 2000.
Regional Outlooks for January through March 2002
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