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Cold Winter Coming

For most of the United States, winter 2001-02 will be a lot like a last year?s, with sharp swings in temperature and precipitation, including heavy snows in the Northeast and Midwest, cold air in the South, and blizzards along the East Coast. The absence of a strong El Nino or La Nina climate pattern means we will have a "typical" winter with a full range of extremes.

?We don't expect a repeat of the record-breaking cold temperatures of November-December of last year, but this winter should be cooler than the warm winters of the late 1990s,? says Scott Gudes, NOAA?s acting administrator. ?Citizens should prepare for the full range of winter weather.?

Climate factors that influenced last winter are back this season. One of these is the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of cold-air outbreaks in the South and blizzards on the East Coast. Another is the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can influence the number of heavy rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

?This winter, NOAA?s improving technologies will help National Weather Service forecasters?for the first time?pinpoint when these factors will kick in and bring extreme weather,? says retired General Jack Kelly, director of NOAA?s National Weather Service. Kelly feels that the nation is likely to experience large temperature and precipitation swings during the winter.

Colder-than-normal temperatures are expected in the Northeast. Snowfall for the entire region will depend on the fluctuations of the Arctic Oscillation.

Mid-Atlantic States have equal chances of above normal, normal, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation. Storm tracks could bring more snow than the winters of the late 1990s, but this largely depends on the Arctic Oscillation.

The Southeast should be drier than normal. Temperatures have an equal chance of averaging above normal, normal or below normal.

In the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, temperatures should be lower than normal, with more sub-zero days than the average of recent winters. There are equal chances for cumulative precipitation to be above normal, normal, or below normal.

The northern Great Plains and Rockies should have below-normal temperatures with more sub-zero days than experienced on average during the winters of the late 1990s, but wet and mild weather is more likely for the southern Plains. The central Rockies can expect equal chances of above normal, normal, or below-normal precipitation and temperatures.

In the Northwest, there are equal chances for above normal, normal, or below-normal rain and snow. Heavy coastal rain events are more likely compared to the previous three winters. A repeat of the near-record dryness seen last winter is unlikely.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected in most of the Southwest (except western California) and equal chances of above normal, normal or below-normal precipitation.

Southwestern Alaska can expect a wet winter. The rest of Alaska and all of Hawaii can expect equal chance of above normal, normal, or below normal temperatures and precipitation.

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