Winter might not feel like winter in the South this year, forecasters say

Mitchell Willetts

Southerners may be sweating in their boots this winter if new weather predictions come true.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict a 60% chance of hotter than average temperatures for most of the southern U.S., spanning from South Carolina through to Arizona.

“The greatest chances for warmer-than-normal conditions extend across the Southern tier of the U.S. from the Southwest, across the Gulf states, and into the Southeast,” according to an NOAA release, explaining the agency’s predictions for December through February.

With an 80% chance of higher temperatures, the most intense heat is expected to cover southwest Texas and the bottom third of New Mexico.

Two bands of relatively milder temperatures cut across the middle of the country.

There’s a 50% likelihood of temperatures higher than typical winter weather spanning from North Carolina, through the lower Midwest, and all the way to California.

The unusual weather is due to La Niña, according to the NOAA.

While the South will likely be warmer and drier, the northern part of the country will trend in the opposite direction.

“With La Niña well established and expected to persist through the upcoming 2020 winter season, we anticipate the typical, cooler, wetter North, and warmer, drier South, as the most likely outcome of winter weather that the U.S. will experience this year,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

While 45% of the nation is already facing drought conditions — concentrated mostly in the Southwest, the NOAA says — those conditions are probably going to worsen, as lower-than-average rainfall is predicted in the months ahead.

All of Florida, most of Texas, and much of Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona face a 50% chance of drier conditions.

Chances of rain are slightly better across the rest of the South and lower Midwest.

“The ongoing La Niña is expected to expand and intensify drought across the southern and central Plains, eastern Gulf Coast, and in California during the months ahead,” according to NOAA.