A warmer-than-average winter is being forecast for much of the United States, including New England, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.
The forecasters also predicted wetter-than-average weather along a large northern swath of the United States, but that area did not include New England, where the chances are equal of below-average, near-average, or above-average precipitation.
The predictions, which cover December through February, don’t mean that this winter will be snow-free in New England, though, because the forecasters are looking at trends, not specific weather conditions.
Temperatures below freezing and a dose of moisture could come together on any given winter day to form one of those storms that blanket New England with snow and whip up bitter winds.
While the weather service does not predict snowfall far in advance, AccuWeather, the private forecasting service, does. The service earlier this month predicted an active storm season and above-normal snowfall from New York City to Boston.
“Whether or not it’s snowstorms, ice storms or mixed events, I do feel this going to be an active year for the Northeast,” AccuWeather long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok said in a statement.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, said, “This is not one of our most confident forecasts.” Halpert said the year was hard to predict because there is no El Nino or La Nina in the central Pacific, two phenomena that are key drivers of winter weather.
That leaves other global factors, ones that can flip every few weeks. Those often lead to dramatic weather swings, Halpert said.
Last year’s forecast of warmer-than-normal conditions turned out to be wrong, Halpert acknowledged. However, since the mid 1990s, the government’s annual winter outlooks are 30 to 35 percent more accurate on temperature than random guesses, he said.
The weather service’s prediction of a warm winter in much of the United States comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculates that the Earth is on pace for the second hottest year on record, behind 2016. NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt said the globe has been warming for decades from heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.