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The La Niña meteorological phenomenon that will influence this winter’s weather and bring warmer, drier than average weather to the Southwest, Southern Plains, Gulf Coast states, and the Southeast 'will likely exacerbate drought conditions in these areas,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists said in their October 21 forecast, noting that it also has the potential “to bring weather extremes” to parts of the nation.”
Drought expected to expand
While the forecast points to improved rainfall conditions from November through January in the Northwest, Upper Midwest, and Ohio Valley, it says drought is expected to “develop and expand into much of the Southeast not currently in moderate drought, along with portions of the Southwest … A large area of drought development is forecast for most of the Southeast … including parts of western Arkansas, eastern Texas, the southern Applachians, and along the Gulf Coast.”
Several areas are classified as in “severe,” “extreme,” or “exceptional” drought, and others “abnormally dry” or “moderate drought.” Stream flow and soil moistsure readings were “quite low” over much of the region.
Adding to the drought picture is the lack of tropical moisture during this year’s hurricane season.
NOAA’s global climate analysis showed January-September as the second warmest on record for world land surface temperatures, behind 2007. The global average ocean surface temperature for the nine-month period was also the second warmest on record, behind 1998.
The global combined land and ocean surface temperature for the period tied with 1998 as the warmest on record.
Much of the Deep South “should prepare for a warmer and drier than average winter, which means drought conditions will likely continue to worsen, with an abnormally high threat for wildfires,” the NOAA Winter Outlook notes.
“Typically, during a La Niña weather pattern, the main storm track cuts across the Pacific Northwest, and the northern branch of the jet stream is dominant. This weather pattern favors flooding in the Northwest and a deep snow pack in the northern Rockies.
“But the southern tier of states experience a less active storm track, and it’s this general lack of storms that leads to below average precipitation in those states. With the primary storm track remaining off to the north, cold air masses are typically not able to dive as often into the Deep South, leading to the overall warmer winter.”
The NOAA scientists note, however, “when storm systems do affect the South during a La Niña weather pattern, explosive severe weather episodes can often occur throughout the winter season, with overall weather conditions remaining relatively warm.”