Temperatures are expected to be about average for the next three months for most of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in a teleconference today (Jan. 17). However, there's about a 33 percent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures for much of the Northeast and the Southwest, and an even greater chance that west Texas and New Mexico will be unusually balmy.
But don't put away your mittens just yet: The last week of January is expected to be much colder than usual for most of the Northeast, with temperatures up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 degrees Celsius) below average in the region, said Anthony Artusa, a forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
Drought continues for just under 60 percent of the continental United States, and it's likely to persist through much of the central and southern Great Plains, even extending in some areas to the South and West, where below-average rainfall is forecast. The odds are tilted toward more rain than average for the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, offering some relief, Artusa said.
The El Niño-La Niña climate cycle, or ENSO, is expected to remain neutral, meaning there will likely be no impacts from an El Niño or La Niña episode, he said.
There's also a greater than 30 percent chance for colder-than-average temperatures in a swath ranging from North Dakota west to Oregon and Washington, according to NOAA.
During the telecast, the scientists also reflected on December, which was warmer and wetter than usual (the whole year was the warmest on record for the United States). Temperatures throughout the country were 3.4 degrees F (1.9 degrees C) above average. At the same time, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the second smallest on record for the month, causing problems for seals that depend on the ice, where they live and hunt for fish, Artusa said.
Next week is also likely to be cold for much of the East Coast, thanks to a mass of cold air that is moving across the country from the Southwest, where it caused record low temperatures in the past week.