US winter forecast: South is wetter and North is warmer

US winter forecast: South is wetter and North is warmer

This year, El Niño is heading toward winter for the first time in four years, leading to a forecast of warmer-than-average temperatures in the northern tier of the continental United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) U.S. Winter Outlook released Today is about climate management. Forecast Center – a division of the National Weather Service.

“These forecasts provide critical guidance about the upcoming season for many industries and sectors in our economy, from energy producers to commodity markets to agricultural interests to tourism,” said Sarah Kapnick, Ph.D., chief scientist at NOAA. “With El Niño intensifying and more extreme weather events likely in an already record-breaking year, we are fortunate to have scientists like those at the Climate Prediction Center helping to build a weather and climate-ready nation by providing critical operational seasonal climate forecasts.”

From December to February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts wetter-than-average conditions for northern Alaska, parts of the West, Southern Plains, Southeast, Gulf Coast, mid-Atlantic lows, and drier-than-average conditions ​​Across the northern tier of the United States. Especially in the northern Rockies, the high plains, and near the Great Lakes.

“The enhanced southern jet stream and associated moisture often experienced during strong El Niño events support high probabilities of above-average precipitation over the Gulf Coast, lower Mississippi Valley, and Southeastern states this winter,” said John Gottschalk, head of NASA's Operational Forecasting Branch. Climate Prediction Center.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), continue to monitor severe and persistent drought conditions that have persisted across the southern and central United States and worsening drought in Hawaii.

“According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released on October 17, one-third of the country, including Puerto Rico, is in drought,” said Brad Pogue, operational drought lead at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. “During late October, heavy precipitation will likely improve drought in the central U.S., and increased precipitation is expected to ease drought in the southern U.S. over the next few months.”

The 2023-2024 US Winter Outlook Temperature Map shows that the greatest chances for warmer-than-average conditions are in the northern tier of the continental United States.
(Image credit: NOAA)


  • Warmer than average temperatures are preferred across the northern tier of the United States and much of the Far West.
    • The greatest potential for warmer than average conditions is in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and northern New England.
  • Near-normal seasonal average temperatures are likely in an area extending from the south-central Rocky Mountains to the southern Plains.
  • The remaining regions fall into the equal opportunity category of below, near, or above average seasonal temperatures.
The 2023-2024 U.S. winter forecast map for precipitation shows that wetter-than-average conditions are likely in the South, Southeast, and parts of California and Nevada. Conditions are expected to be drier than average in parts of the northern part of the United States.
(Image credit: NOAA)


  • Conditions are likely to be wetter than average in northern Alaska, some areas west from parts of California to the south-central Rocky Mountains, the southern Plains, the Gulf Coast, and the southeast and mid-Atlantic.
  • Conditions are expected to be drier than average in parts of the northern Rockies and the central Great Lakes region, especially in Michigan, northern Ohio and Indiana.
  • Much of the central part of the United States falls into the equal opportunity category for below, near, or above average total seasonal precipitation.
The U.S. Drought Outlook Map for November 2023 to January 2024 predicts improving drought in the South, lower Mississippi Valley, Texas and parts of the Midwest. Drought is likely to continue in parts of the desert southwest, and in parts of the Pacific Northwest eastward along the boreal layer to the Great Lakes, and across Hawaii. Drought is expected to develop in the interior of the Pacific Northwest.
(Image credit: NOAA)


  • Widespread severe to exceptional drought continues across much of the South and parts of the central United States
  • Drought conditions are expected to improve across the Southeast, Gulf Coast (including the lower Mississippi Valley) and Texas due to forecasts calling for more than average precipitation.
  • Dry conditions are expected to persist in the northern Rockies, northern Great Plains and parts of the Desert Southwest this winter.
  • Drought could occur in the interior of the Pacific Northwest with a chance for drier than average conditions.
  • Drought will likely continue or develop throughout Hawaii.

About NOAA's seasonal forecast

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) seasonal outlook provides the likelihood that temperatures and total precipitation amounts will be above, near, or below average, and how drought conditions are expected to change in the coming months. The forecast does not indicate seasonal snowfall accumulations, as snow forecasts generally cannot be predicted more than a week in advance.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center updates the three-month forecast every month. The next update will be available on November 16.

Seasonal forecasts help communities prepare for what is likely to come in the coming months and reduce weather impacts on lives and livelihoods. Resources such as and provide comprehensive tools to better understand and plan for climate-related risks. Empowering people with actionable forecasts, seasonal forecasts, and winter weather safety tips is key to NOAA's efforts to build a more weather and climate prepared nation.

Winter Forecasting Tools: Here's what's new at NOAA this year

  • This winter, NOAA will implement a series of upgrades and improvements. In November, the Winter Storm Severity Probabilistic Index (WSSI-P) will become operational. The product will enhance communication with external partners, media and the general public by graphically depicting the potential for potential community impacts due to forecast winter hazards over a 7-day period. This is supplemented with a version of the Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI) based on the official National Weather Service forecast of the most likely conditions over the next three days.
  • NOAA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather and Climate Forecast Centers will continue to use winter key messages, which highlight the agency's most important information about the upcoming winter weather, including the potential for extreme cold and heavy snow. These stories can be found under “Top Stories” on the Weather Prediction Center and Climate Prediction Center website.
  • This winter, NOAA will complete its implementation of impact-based warning labels for snowstorm warnings. Blizzard Warnings are short-term warnings issued for heavy snow and wind flows that result in obscured views and possible icing on roads. To distinguish high-impact blizzards, the National Weather Service will issue blizzard warnings based on impact using a “major” label for events that pose a significant threat to safe travel. Wireless Emergency Alerts, which are emergency messages sent by authorized government alert authorities through wireless carriers, will be limited to severe-impact blizzard warnings only with a blizzard impact tag marked “Substantial.”

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