New England, U.S. South May Be Warmer This Winter

New England, much of the southern U.S. and coastal Alaska will probably have warmer-than-normal temperatures through the next three months, according to the national Climate Prediction Center.

North Dakota, parts of Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota have higher chances to be cooler than normal, the center in Camp Springs, Maryland, said in its seasonal outlook today. Forecasters aren’t able to predict what may be in store for much of the rest of the country because there is no clear signal, said Mike Halpert, acting center director.

“Seasonal climate forecasting is a young science, and despite recent advances, this year’s outlook continues to be challenging,” Halpert said in a conference call with reporters.

Below-normal temperatures, especially in Eastern and Midwestern cities, tend to increase energy consumption as more people heat homes and businesses. Power generation accounts for 32 percent of U.S. gas use, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. About 49 percent of all homes use the fuel for heating.

Maine and northern New Hampshire, as well as most of Texas and Louisiana, have odds greater than 40 percent of above-normal temperatures through February, according to the center, a unit of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Most of the rest of New England, including Boston, and a large part of the southern U.S. from Arizona to Alabama have a 33 percent chance.

Cold Odds

North Dakota has a greater-than-40-percent chance of being cooler, with parts of its neighboring states at 33 percent odds.

Halpert said water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean are playing havoc with forecasters’ ability to make predictions.

If sea surface temperatures were above normal, an El Nino pattern would be under way, and if cooler, then a La Nina would have formed. Without a clear indication one way or another, seasonal forecasting becomes more difficult, he said.

The center’s outlook also said drought is expected to develop in the Southeast and expand in the Northeast, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

Dry conditions are also expected to persist in almost all of California, Nevada, western Nebraska and Kansas, as well as parts of the Midwest.

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