In a report released on Thursday from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, forecasters from the government weather agency believe that the recent November cold snap may not necessarily mean that the upcoming winter will be colder than normal. Recent studies suggest that the persistence of weather and climate from one winter to the next or even one month to the next is usually fairly low. Persistence, or the prediction that recent conditions will continue without much change, is rarely as accurate as forecasts made with input from complex computer models, even though it may be the least difficult forecast to make.
That does not necessarily mean that the upcoming winter won’t be colder than normal in the central and eastern parts of the United States. According to an outlook issued in mid-November by the Climate Prediction Center, probabilities favor below average temperatures for the months of December, January, and February across portions of the south-central and southeastern United States. Furthermore, even in places where NOAA believes probabilities of above normal temperatures are favored, there is still the chance of a colder than normal winter. The outlooks issued by NOAA describe probabilities, which means that even when one outcome is more likely than the other, there is always a chance that the less favored outcome could occur. So basically, they cannot be completely wrong but only partially wrong and if you are only partially wrong, that means you were also partially right.
NOAA forecasters believe that El Niño has a 58% of developing this winter, and some would argue that a weak El Niño has already developed and it may not get much stronger. This recent projection is lower than originally anticipated and many forecasters now believe that a neutral or very weak El Niño may prevail through this upcoming winter. Regardless, NOAA has placed an emphasis on El Niño in the winter outlook, although El Niño often has a more robust influence on precipitation than on temperature.
The winter precipitation outlook favors wetter-than-normal conditions across the southern tier of the nation extending northward along the East Coast, as well as in southern Alaska, and drier-than-normal conditions in central Alaska, parts of the Pacific Northwest and around the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. This type of pattern is very typical of an El Niño winter. It should also be noted that other atmospheric patterns, jet streams, ocean temperatures, and large oscillations can have an impact on the winter precipitation and temperatures and El Niño is only one piece of the puzzle.