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Expect another winter of extremes

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Federal forecasters expect much of South to be warmer and drier than average
  • Northern Plains will be colder and wetter
  • Mountains in Pacific Northwest may get more snow

(CNN) -- Federal forecasters on Thursday called for another winter of extremes, with the Pacific Northwest expecting a wetter and colder season than average and the South and Southeast yearning for rain.

A moderate to strong La Niņa will be the dominant factor influencing weather, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said. NOAA defines La Niņa as "cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific ocean that impact global weather patterns." It is related to El Niņo, which brings warmer than normal sea temperatures.

"Last winter's El Niņo contributed to record-breaking rain and snowfall leading to severe flooding in some parts of the country, with record heat and drought in other parts of the country," the center said. "Although La Niņa is the opposite of El Niņo, it also has the potential to bring weather extremes to parts of the nation."

Mountains in the Pacific Northwest may get more snow than average. That's good for water replenishment, but it may also increase the chance of avalanches and flooding.

The Southwest will be warmer and drier than average, exacerbating drought conditions in those areas, the center said. The Northern Plains will be colder and have a higher risk of flooding.

The Southern Plains, Gulf Coast states and Southeast will be warmer and drier than average, forecasters said.

"All Southern states are at risk of having above-normal wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring," the center said.

The Ohio and Tennessee valleys will be warmer and wetter than average. The Northeast, mid-Atlantic states and the Central United States have an equal chance for above- or below-average temperatures and precipitation, the center said.

NOAA cautions that its seasonal outlook, which looks at conditions through February 2011, does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Winter storms are generally not predictable more than several days in advance.