Warm fall predicted but 'La Nada' is a challenge for the forecast

Sick of summer heat? Better keep the lemonade handy, as a warmer-than-average fall is forecast for almost the entire USA, federal forecasters announced Thursday.

The forecast said folks in the Southwest, the Northeast and Alaska have the best chance to see warmer-than-average temperatures from October to December, the Climate Prediction Center predicted.

Not a single square inch of the nation is predicted to see cooler-than-average temperatures in those months.

The pattern will continue what's been a scorching year for the nation: From January-August, the U.S. sweltered through its third-warmest year on record, the National Center for Environmental Information said earlier this week. Overall, every state is having a warmer-than-average year.

As for precipitation this fall, people in the nation's southern tier from Texas to the Carolinas should be able to ditch the umbrellas, as that area has the best chance of seeing clear skies and dry conditions.

Only Montana and Alaska should see more rain and snow than usual in the October-through-December period.

While waterlogged portions of the nation such as Louisiana might welcome a few dry months, much of the West, Southeast and Northeast could definitely use some rain: Massachusetts, for example, is now in the midst of its worst drought since the 1960s, climate scientist Jake Crouch of the center for environmental information said.

He said more than half of the state, including the entire Boston metropolitan area, are in extreme drought conditions, Crouch said, something that hasn't happened since the weekly federal Drought Monitor started in 2000.

The drought is leading to water restrictions in several Massachusetts communities, WWLP-TV said, and the dry soil is causing trouble for farmers, gardeners, and homeowners.

Here comes La Nada!

However, take the fall prediction with a grain of salt or two, as long-range weather forecasts like this tend to more challenging when the world’s top two climate troublemakers El Niño and La Niña are on vacation, as is the case this fall and into the winter.

With neither climate pattern holding sway — replaced by what some call "La Nada" — meteorologists tend to be less certain about their forecast, said Matthew Rosencrans, a forecaster with the prediction center.

The entire natural climate cycle is officially known as the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a see-saw dance of warmer and cooler seawater in the tropical Pacific Ocean. (El Niño means warmer-than-average water while La Niña is its cooler opposite number; we're now seeing ENSO-neutral or "La Nada" conditions as the temperatures are close to average.)

ENSO is often the main influence on weather in the U.S. and around the world, especially in late fall, throughout the winter and into early spring, according to Rosencrans.

La Niña had been predicted to be the leading actor this winter, but that likelihood has waned, even prompting the climate center last week to cancel the La Niña watch it had issued earlier this year. Forecasters say the odds of staying in an ENSO-neutral state are at 55-60 percent.


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