A Mild Winter Is In Store For Most Americans, Government Says

Most Americans should expect a mild winter this year, thanks to a developing El Niño system, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As ABC News reports, government weather scientists at NOAA released their winter outlook today, and if you're a fan of snow, ice, and brisk temperatures, this isn't going to be your year. But if you want to save on heating bills, you're in luck.

That's because a developing El Niño system is brewing in the Pacific Ocean. The semi-regular warming of the waters off the coast of Central and South America wreaks havoc on weather systems in this hemisphere, and that means a mild, if wet, winter is in store for most of the U.S.

Fortunately, according to Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, this year's El Niño is expected to be weak, so don't expect anything too extreme one way or the other.

So how does that shake out, specifically? Well, according to CNN, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can be all but certain to expect warmer-than-average temperatures this winter. The vast majority of the West, extending into parts of Kansas, Iowa, and even Minnesota and Michigan, are also looking at warmer-than-average temperatures, but the odds are slightly less good. A narrow, roughly arc-shaped region of the country extending from western Texas and up into New England stands a slightly better chance of a warmer-than-average winter. And the southeast has an equal chance of average or warmer-than-average winter temperatures.

As for precipitation: The developing El Niño system is expected to bring some higher-than-average precipitation to Arizona and New Mexico, southern parts of Utah and Colorado, the coastal Pacific Northwest and the Central Plains - places where it is sorely needed. Also expected to see above-average precipitation this winter is pretty much all of the southeastern U.S., including Florida, Georgia, and even extending northwest into parts of Missouri and Illinois.

Unfortunately, drought conditions are expected to remain in Southern California, which has been bedeviled by drought for a decade.

By the way, don't conclude that an expected "mild winter" means that you can ditch your winter coats and snow shovels. Mild or not, winter is [still] coming, and there will almost certainly be major snowstorms.

"Even during a warmer-than-average winter, periods of cold temperatures and snowfall are still likely to occur."
Of course, this is all just predictions based on computer weather models and known history. And as everyone knows, predicting the future is a fool's game at best. Mother Nature may yet surprise us and give us the harshest winter we've seen in decades.

But don't bet on it.