Western drought forecast to persist this winter

WASHINGTON, DC, October 12, 2004 (ENS): This winter will bring above-average temperatures in Alaska, much of the West and the northern and central Great Plains, according to weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA 2004-2005 Winter Outlook indicates some improvement in drought conditions in the West, but long-term drought is expected to persist through the winter in many areas. Drier-than-average conditions are expected in the Midwest, northern Plains, and Pacific Northwest.

Elsewhere across the United States, the NOAA Winter Outlook calls for below average temperatures across the Gulf Coast states, the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic region.

In the Northeast, Midwest and parts of the Southwest, NOAA forecasts equal chances of warmer, cooler or near-normal temperatures this winter.

California and the southernmost states from coast to coast can expect wetter than average conditions, forecasters say.

For the first time, NOAA’s new Climate Forecast System is being used as a tool for this outlook. This new system is a coupled ocean-atmosphere computer model, which complements other NOAA models and gives increased confidence of probable climate events before they happen.

Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction, calls it "a new era in climate prediction."

“NOAA’s progress in climate forecasting is based on ongoing research and collaboration with our partners, advancements in our understanding of the global climate system, upgrades to the weather and climate supercomputer, and improvements in the state-of-the-art atmospheric and oceanic modeling applications," Uccellini said.

The winter outlook reflects a blend of impacts associated with weak-to-moderate El Niño events in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean and is based on the likelihood that these conditions will persist through early 2005, forecasters predict.

El Niño influences the winter weather patterns by affecting the jet stream and the path that storms take across the eastern Pacific and North America.

“Our winter forecast factors in the effects of a weak El Niño that may strengthen into a moderate event during the winter months,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. “But we’ll keep our eye on other climate features in the Pacific and the North Atlantic that play an important role on the week-to-week variability in our winter weather. These patterns influence the position of the jet stream and dictate where and how winter storms will move.”

During weak to moderate El Niño events, shifts in the jet stream change the patterns of storminess over the eastern North Pacific and North America.

Jim Laver, director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says, “NOAA anticipates enhanced storminess near the Aleutian Islands and in the Southeast U.S., and warmer, drier conditions over western North America.”

Another climate system called the North Atlantic Oscillation also plays an important role in modulating the winter weather over the eastern half of the United States. This climate pattern influences the position of the jet stream over the North Atlantic, affecting winter weather over the Northeast, but it is only predictable one to two weeks in advance.

Impacts from the North Atlantic Oscillation are included in NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center's 8-14 day and 6-10 day outlooks and U.S. Hazards Assessment.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2004/2004-10-12-09.asp#anchor4


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