U.S. Winter Outlook: NOAA forecasters predict cooler, wetter North and warmer, drier South

Click here to read the outlook from NOAA:

Drought likely to persist in northern Plains

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released the U.S. Winter Outlook today, with La Nina potentially emerging for the second year in a row as the biggest wildcard in how this year’s winter will shape up. La Nina has a 55- to 65-percent chance of developing before winter sets in.

Snowstorm photo via NOAA.

NOAA produces seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for what’s likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods. Empowering people with actionable forecasts and winter weather tips is key to NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

“If La Nina conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Typical La Nina patterns during winter include above average precipitation and colder than average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South.”

Other factors that influence winter weather include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and is difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can affect the number of heavy rain events along the West Coast.

The 2017 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February):


  • Wetter-than-average conditions are favored across most of the northern United States, extending from the northern Rockies, to the eastern Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley, in Hawaii and in western and northern Alaska.
  • Drier-than-normal conditions are most likely across the entire southern U.S.
  • 2017-18 Winter Outlook map for precipitation (NOAA)


  • Warmer-than-normal conditions are most likely across the southern two-thirds of the continental U.S., along the East Coast, across Hawaii and in western and northern Alaska.
  • Below-average temperatures are favored along the Northern Tier of the country from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest and in southeastern Alaska.
  • The rest of the country falls into the equal chance category, which means they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation because there is not a strong enough climate signal in these areas to shift the odds.
  • 2017-18 Winter Outlook map for temperature (NOAA).


  • Despite the outlook favoring above-average precipitation this winter, drought is likely to persist in parts of the northern Plains, although improvement is anticipated farther West.
  • Elsewhere, drought could develop across scattered areas of the South, mainly in regions that missed the rainfall associated with the active 2017 hurricane season.
  • NOAA’s seasonal outlooks give the likelihood that temperature and precipitation will be above-, near, or below-average, and also how drought is expected to change, but do not project seasonal snowfall accumulations. While the last two winters featured above-average temperatures over much of the nation, significant snowstorms still impacted different parts of the country. Snow forecasts are generally not predictable more than a week in advance because they depend upon the strength and track of winter storms. The U.S. Winter Outlook will be updated on November 16.

    Three-month outlook from the Climate Prediction Center

    Three month temperature outlook October 19, 2017 through January 31, 2018 via the Climate Prediction Center.
    Three month precipitation outlook October 19, 2017 through January 31, 2018 via the Climate Prediction Center.

    #Drought news: D0 (Abnormally Dry) expanded to Four Corners

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


    As usual, there were winners and losers with respect to precipitation this week. Heavy rain fell across much of the Midwest, particularly notable in an area stretching from eastern Iowa northeastward to Michigan where upwards of 600% of typical precipitation for the week was received. Rainfall was below-average across most of the Northeast, the South, and Southeast. Additionally, temperatures were almost summer-like for several days from the Midwest to the Northeast, where departures were up to 15-30 degrees F above average in places, making it feel like August rather than October in many places. The dryness and heat brought about expansion of dry areas across parts the South, Southeast, and Northeast, while the Midwest saw the most improvements this week…

    High Plains

    Dry conditions improved in southeastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas (see Midwest section).

    Abnormally dry conditions were expanded to the San Juan Mountains and Four Corners in southwest Colorado. This area did not receive as much moisture as areas to the north, west, and east during a recent wet spell.

    Much of the Dakotas continued to see improvements, with recent rainfall helping to slowly alleviate ongoing drought conditions. While there are lingering long-term deficits, local experts in North Dakota observe that farming conditions are currently very good…


    Montana is experiencing slowly improving conditions, including vegetation and soil moisture. However, in Valley, Roosevelt, and McCone Counties, empty stock ponds remain and there are still large cracks in the soil. This week, conditions improved enough such that exceptional drought (D4, the most dire category) in the north near this area was improved one category to extreme drought (D3). Overall in Montana, large deficits still remain across the state. For example, Glasgow is 5 inches below normal for the year-to-date (53% of normal) and Zortman is 4.75 inches below normal (69% of normal). Wildfires still continue to burn in areas.

    In Oregon, conditions have improved and moderate drought (D1) in Oregon and southern Washington were upgraded to abnormally dry (D0), which better reflect current impacts in the region…

    Looking Ahead

    For the week of October 17-23, the extreme Northwest and the South/Southeast are likely to receive above-average precipitation, very heavy in the Northwest and up to 3 inches in parts of the South. Less than half an inch of precipitation is forecast across the mid-Atlantic states, the Northeast, and the High Plains into Montana. Looking a bit further to the October 22-26 timeframe, above-normal temperatures are expected over the western U.S, while parts of Texas may see below-average temperatures. Below-normal precipitation is also forecast for the western U.S. Looking even further out to the week of Oct 24-30, most of the contiguous U.S. is favored to see below-average precipitation, while above-normal precipitation is favored across the Appalachians and eastward. The Great Lakes region is also favored to receive above-normal precipitation at this time.

    Here’s the latest 3 month drought outlook map from the Climate Prediction Center.

    Seasonal Drought Outlook October 19, 2017 through January 31, 2017.

    Rising Colorado water leaders meet with Colorado River District board

    By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

    The Government Highline Canal is managed by the Grand Valley Water Users Association, and serves as a major source of irrigation water in the Grand Valley.

    GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A group of water leaders in Colorado, most new to their posts, appeared before the board of the Colorado River District on Tuesday in Glenwood Springs.

    Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Kevin Rein, state hydraulic engineer for Colorado, both of whom took their current positions in July, introduced themselves to the river district board, which includes representatives of 15 Western Slope counties.

    Mitchell said it was important for the state to develop a long-term source of funding for new water projects in both the Denver metro area and the Western Slope, but she said the various river-basin plans in the state needed to be prioritized before a funding question is put to voters.

    “We don’t want to take some ballot measure up that won’t pass,” said Mitchell, who was promoted to her new position at CWCB after working on the 2015 state water plan. “We want to make sure we get everything prepared so we have the most chance for success, because this is such an important issue.”

    Rein, who serves as the state’s water-law enforcer, said he intends to continue the policies and practices of his predecessor, Dick Wolfe, and that he hopes to administer water rights and respond to water court applications with consistency and transparency.

    “It all comes down to balance for me,” Rein said, in trying to administer water rights against competing demands.

    Jayla Poppleton, who has been the executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education since January, also went before the river district board Tuesday, describing her organization’s new brand positioning.

    Created by the state Legislature in 2002 to inform citizens about water, the organization is changing its name to Water Education Colorado, and its new logo is based on the layout of the state’s eight river basins.

    The logo for Water Education Colorado seeks to convey a conversation about the eight river basins in Colorado as defined by the state’s basin roundtables, which are represented in the logo in clockwise fashion, and include, from the top left, the Yampa/White, North Platte, South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, Gunnison, Southwest/San Juan/Dolores, and Colorado basins.

    Andrew Mueller, who starts as new general manager of the river district on Dec. 1, was also at the meeting.

    An attorney at a law firm in Glenwood Springs, Mueller once lived in Ouray and represented Ouray County on the Colorado River District’s board from 2006-2015. He was hired in September upon unanimous consent by the river district’s board.

    At the district’s next quarterly board meeting in January, Mueller will officially replace Eric Kuhn, the district’s current general manager, who is retiring after 37 years.

    Kuhn has a deep understanding of Colorado River issues, and he and John Carron, an engineer with Hydros Consulting Inc., presented to the board the latest findings of an ongoing “risk study” focusing on ways to keep enough water in Lake Powell in the face of another sharp drought.

    Also presenting at Tuesday’s meeting was Mark Harris, the general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association, which diverts water out of the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, at the red-roofed roller dam.

    Harris was before the river district’s board seeking financial support for the second year of an experimental program that pays irrigators to fallow fields or crops, lower their consumptive use, and leave water in the river to help keep Lake Powell operational.

    The association is one of the big three diverters in the Grand Valley, and provides water to 25,000 irrigated acres on the north side of the valley from Palisade to Mack via the 55-mile-long Government Highline Canal.

    In 2017, the association compensated 10 large irrigators, whose names have not been disclosed, to fallow a total of 1,252 acres of irrigated land on parcels ranging from 60 acres to 240 acres.

    A map showing, in red, the participants in the Grand Valley Water User’s Association program in 2017 to conserve consumptive use in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction.
    An irrigated hayfield in the Grand Valley irrigated by the Government Highline Canal. Summer, 2017.

    The 2017 program, which concludes this month, will result in 3,200 acre-feet of water not being used for irrigation.

    The association funded the program with $1,039,000. Of that, it put $145,000 in an infrastructure fund, used $169,000 for program management, and paid $725,000 to irrigators. (That works out to about $225 per acre-foot of “conserved consumptive use” to the irrgators.)

    Major funding sources for the program included The Nature Conservancy, the state of Colorado, and Denver Water. The association intends to run the program again in 2018.

    Harris said the association continues to learn about how such a fallowing program in the Grand Valley might work in the face of a drought or other challenge to complying with the Colorado River compact, which requires Colorado and other states in the upper Colorado River basin to provide a set amount of water to California, Arizona, and Nevada, even in dry years.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on the coverage or rivers and water.

    @NOAAClimate: Globe had 2nd warmest year to date, 4th warmest September on record #ActOnClimate

    From NOAA:

    The equinox on September 22 marked a seasonal milestone for planet Earth. It signified a rapid progression into autumn for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and spring for those “down under” in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Let’s dive deeper into our monthly analysis to see how the planet fared for the month and the year to date:

    Climate by the numbers

    September 2017
    The average global temperature set in September 2017 was 1.40 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 59.0 degrees, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This average temperature was the fourth highest for September in the 1880-2017 record. This marked the 41st consecutive September and the 393rd consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

    Year to date | January through September 2017
    The year-to-date average temperature was 1.57 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 57.5 degrees. This was the second warmest for this period, 0.23 of a degree behind the record set in 2016. Nine of the 10 warmest January-September global temperatures have occurred since 2005, with 1998 as the only exception.

    Here are some noteworthy climate events that occurred around the world in September. (NOAA NCEI)

    Other notable climate events and facts around the world last month included:

    Below-average sea ice at the poles persists

  • The average Arctic sea ice coverage in September was 25.5 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the seventh smallest on record. On September 13, Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum extent (coverage) at 1.79 million square miles, the eighth smallest in the 1979–2017 satellite record.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent in September was 4.2 percent below average, the second smallest on record.
  • Warmer-than-average lands and oceans

  • The globally averaged land-surface temperature ranked as third warmest for the month of September and second highest for the year to date (January to September).
  • The globally averaged sea-surface temperature ranked fourth warmest for September and third highest for the year to date.
  • Africa leads the continents in September warmth rankings

  • Africa had its warmest September on record; South America, its fifth; Asia, its seventh; North America, its eighth; Oceania, its 12th; and Europe, its 19th.
  • A look at #LaNiña #ENSO

    Typical La Nina weather patterns over North America via NOAA.

    From KOAA.com:

    What Does A La Niñ?a Mean For Southern Colorado?

    A La Niña pattern typically means drier than average conditions for most of Southern Colorado, but that’s not always the case. La Niña will usually shift the Polar jet stream to the north, meaning cold air and storms typically miss Colorado to the north and north east. That pattern and storm track can often rob Southern Colorado of an up slope wind, which is a big ingredient for snowfall along the Front Range and the foothills. Past data has shown this often brings drier conditions to most of the I-25 corridor due to the lack of that moist, up slope wind.

    SNOTEL data shows La Niña will usually provide above average snowfall to the Upper Arkansas River Basin, near or below average to the Upper Rio Grand and San Juan River Basins, and below average to the Sangre De Cristo and Wet mountains. While the data shows we are typically dry, there was a strong La Niña in 1999 and yet Colorado Springs saw one of it’s highest annual precipitation measurements on record.

    The take away? Southern Colorado weather is always very active and difficult to predict. If we do see a La Niña develop,(remember the chance right now is between 55 to 65 percent) it’s no guarantee that we’ll get the usual dry pattern. Even if we do see the La Niña form, remember that we live next to a mountain range and we’re going to see a few big snows throughout the winter season.