BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 13: A woman and her grandchilden sled on Boston Common following a winter storm February 13, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Another winter storm has brought heavy snow and wind to the region. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

La Niña expected to bring mild winter to US

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Based on the conditions in the Pacific Ocean running cooler than average (also known as La Niña), which Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Mike Halpert said are similar to those observed last year, the forecast for this winter will likely be similar to last year’s.

Halpert said a La Niña watch was issued in September and is likely to be upgraded to an advisory in about a month. A La Niña event is associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

In a conference call, NOAA officials provided the organization's official winter outlook based on data collected throughout the year, computer model simulations and known patterns regarding La Niña winters.

It presents what is likely to come in the next few months to help families, business and governments prepare. Temperature forecasts indicate New England doesn’t have a strong enough climate signal to indicate whether the winter will be colder or warmer than usual.

"In the past, we have had variable La Niña winters that have provided wetter and drier winters locally, so there isn't as reliable an expectation," Boston 25 Meteorologist Shiri Spear explained. "Other parts of the United States have more predictable outcomes. 

But higher than average precipitation could improve drought conditions in coastal New England, Halpert noted. NOAA officials say these ‘probablistic’ forecasts can certainly change and New England’s location along climate lines can sway these changes further.

"At this point, the outlook for New England would tilt the odds toward warmer than average," said Halpert. "Our models are kind of waffling in that area, there's not a real strong signal. I don't think there's even a strong signal for less snow up in New England."

Less snow than average usually comes in La Nina winters, but the signal in New England is not as strong as other parts of the United States when it comes to indicating what will happen. 

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