Some may approach the upcoming season with dread, but it is inevitable: winter is coming. As we get closer to the official start of the winter season, the biggest question this time of year always revolves around what type of season to expect.
The first step to answer that question is to take a big-picture look at what is going on right now in the world. Then, we can delve deeper into what is ahead for the coming months.
Presently, we are in a situation with ongoing La Niña conditions. This occurs when there is cooling of the waters over some time in the east-central equatorial Pacific. Temperatures in that area of the Pacific are colder than normal, which usually means a more established La Niña pattern will develop. La Niña conditions are expected to continue even into the upcoming winter months.
Although we are far from that part of the ocean, the changes in ocean temperatures impact weather patterns across the world. For most southern states, La Niña conditions generally point to warmer and drier winters.
That is exactly the case with the long-term precipitation and temperature forecasts for parts of the southern plains.
The best way to look at long-term trends is to compare what we would normally see, based on averages over the past three decades.
With the current pattern, the highest probability for above average temperatures the next few months will be for Texas. Although the probability is not as strong, temperatures also have the possibility to average above normal for all of Oklahoma and the far southwest corner of Kansas during the month of December.
Throughout December, below normal precipitation is anticipated across Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas. This is not ideal for those currently experiencing drought conditions in central and northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma. With below normal precipitation forecasted for those areas, drought conditions are expected to persist in the coming months and may even expand as we head toward winter.
As for the rest of the central plains, there are not any strong signals that those areas will see a variance from normal precipitation for December.
Beyond December, La Niña is forecasted to continue into the first few months of 2018. This means there are not any big changes in the long-term trends after this month. Currently, above average temperatures are expected to continue into the first part of the new year for Texas, Oklahoma and southwest Kansas. Along with that, trends continue to indicate below normal precipitation in the first couple of months of next year for Texas and southern Oklahoma.
I’m always keeping an eye to the sky (and the weather patterns), so stay tuned for next month’s update.
Regina Bird grew up on a farm near Belleville, Kansas. The views from the farm helped spur her interest in weather. Following high school, she went on to get a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Kansas. She currently works as a meteorologist for NTV and KFXL in central Nebraska. Follow her on Twitter: @ReginaBirdWX.