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NOAA winter forecast whiplash: Warm Seattle December switches to cool start to 2017

A cloudy Seattle day (Photo: Sigma Sreedharan Photography)

January will not only usher in a new year, but could finally flip the script on what has been generally a very warm autumn, if the NOAA long range forecasts are correct.

NOAA issued their monthly long range weather forecast update and in the short term, they're going with much of the status quo: Kinda mild in the Northwest. October was the wettest on record and quite mild, while November is on pace to be among the warmest on record, if not the top dog.

Here's the forecast for December alone (top images) and the 90 day December-January-February forecast on the bottom:

Again, these maps depict a level of confidence in the forecast -- the darker the reds, the more confident forecasters are of it being warmer than normal; blue = cooler; green = wetter; brown = drier. "EC" means "equal chances" and no signal either way.

In their discussion, forecasters depict an interesting battle between a budding La Nina, which past events with similar set up would denote a cooler December, and actual forecast models taking current conditions and calculating them out, which are trending toward a warmer December -- most likely inertia from the current mild patterns. So they painted a bit of a warmer forecast for the Northwest with a note that there's more than usual uncertainty in the forecast.

But as we head into the heart of winter, they think La Nina will win the day and the Northwest will finally flip over to a more La Nina-esque cooler, wetter overall pattern:

So we're still mildly optimistic it'll end up a good ski and snowpack year, even with a little bit of a late start. However, even in the short term, a cooler pattern is setting up to where we're expecting our first big mountain snow storms Thanksgiving week into the following weekend:

What happens once we get out of winter?

La Nina is expected to be short-lived and the super long range forecasts are trending back toward a familiar shade of oranges and red for late spring into summer -- and even into next autumn at this point. It's too early to know if next winter will remain neutral, see a return of La Nina or drift back to El Nino. La Nina's have frequently gone back-to-back so we'll see.

In the meantime, you'll notice that much of the nation is shaded in the warm sector. Forecasters are going with the long-term trends, and long range statistical models are also leaning warm.

(Here is a link to thee precipitation maps: )

So there's a bit of everything in here for the sun fans and the snow fans. And don't worry, if one side looks like it's going to be consistently disappointed, I still have a bunch more Emergency Kittens videos in my arsenal!


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