Sunday Feature: NOAA Predicts Droughts Gripping Nearly Half of Continental U.S. Will Intensify This Winter

The agency expects the South and Southwest will be warmer and drier than usual in the coming months, offering no relief to the already parched regions

Temperature-wise, the majority of the U.S. will be warmer than usual this winter, per the AP, with only Washington, northern Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota predicted to be colder.

By Alex Fox | Smithsonian Magazine

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts this winter will be a dry one for much of the South and the Southwest, suggesting that droughts already impacting those regions are likely to intensify, reports Henry Fountain for The New York Times.

The parts of the Southwest and Intermountain West currently experiencing drought comprise nearly half of the continental United States, reports Jeremy Jacobs of E&E News. And NOAA’s new winter outlook has those drought conditions, the most widespread since 2013, expected to spread west.

“The big story is likely to be drought,” Mike Halpert, the deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, tells E&E News. “The winter forecast doesn’t bode well. Drought is likely to develop in central and Southern California.”

NOAA’s precipitation forecast predicts a dry winter for the entire southerly portion of the U.S., stretching from North Carolina to Southern California, reports Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press (AP). A wet winter was only predicted for the most northern states: “Oregon and Washington to Michigan and dipping down to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and other parts of the Ohio Valley,” writes Borenstein for the AP. The remaining horizontal band of states across the U.S. are predicted to experience normal levels of rain and snow.

For the Southwest, the forecast, and the drought it’s predicted to exacerbate, is a continuation of the parched conditions that have plagued the region for much of the past two decades.

Temperature-wise, the majority of the U.S. will be warmer than usual this winter, per the AP, with only Washington, northern Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota predicted to be colder.

According to the Times, NOAA also says 2020 has a roughly two-thirds chance of unseating 2016 as the warmest year on record for the entire planet, and is “very likely” to be in the top three.

For the Southwest, the forecast, and the drought it’s predicted to exacerbate, is a continuation of the parched conditions that have plagued the region for much of the last two decades, per the Times.

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