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Colder, snowier conditions likely

Weather forecasters say this winter in North Dakota is likely to be colder and snowier than usual. That is the analysis provided by meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.

In the latest long-term outlook issued by the CPC, an ongoing La Nina is cited as the reason for favoring “cooler and wetter conditions” across the northern United States, including North Dakota. The La Nina climate pattern, says the CPC, causes them to anticipate “the typical, cooler, wetter North, and warmer, drier South” as the most likely occurrence this winter. During the winter in North Dakota “wetter” almost always arrives in the form of snowfall.

At this time approximately 45% of the U.S. is experiencing some degree of drought, including most of North Dakota. While a wetter than normal winter could yield benefits with snow falling on dry ground, the La Nina effect is expected to produce opposite results elsewhere. Most notably, says the CDC, a “warmer, drier South” could experience increasingly dry conditions during the winter months.

The latest outlook, which is updated monthly, says below-normal temperatures are favored from “the northern Pacific Northwest into the Northern Plains.” It adds that “wetter-than-average” conditions are most likely across the same region.

While the outlook may appear somewhat ominous, it should be noted that “colder than usual” and “wetter than usual” does not necessarily mean a harsh or severe winter is expected. For example, an average drop of a degree or two in temperature over the winter time frame would be considered colder than usual. Likewise, favoring an increase in snowfall does not necessarily mean much more than what is usually experienced in North Dakota.

As the CPC puts it, “seasonal outlooks provide the likelihood that temperatures and total precipitation amounts will be above-average, near, or below-average” and that the outlook “does not project seasonal snowfall accumulations; snow forecasts are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.”

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