By Jillian MacMath – AccuWeather
Though parts of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic had a gradual introduction to fall, winter will arrive without delay. Cold air and high snow amounts will define the season.
Farther south, ice storms and snow events will threaten the Tennessee Valley and parts of the southern Plains. Much of the South can prepare for a wet winter, with some severe weather encroaching on Florida.
The northern Plains will be somewhat inconsistent with variable, back-and-forth temperatures and below-normal snowfall. Meanwhile, the drought will persist in the Northwest and northern California and ease slightly farther south.
A breakdown of the AccuWeather.com 2014-2015 U.S. Winter Forecast can be found below.
JUMP TO: Cold Northeast, Interior Mid-Atlantic to Yield Snowy Winter Season| Rain, Snow, Ice All Threats for Southeast, Gulf States, Tennessee Valley | Dry, Less Harsh Winter In Store for Midwest, Ohio Valley, northern and central Plains | El Nino May Lead to High Moisture Into Southern Plains, Interior Southwest | Winter Precipitation Won’t Bust Northwest, Northern California Drought | POLL: What Type of Winter Are You Hoping For?
After record-shattering temperatures and high snow totals last winter in the Northeast, a similar theme will continue into the 2014-2015 season.
Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February. The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.
“I think, primarily, we’ll see that happening in mid-January into February but again, it’s not going to be the same type of situation as we saw last year, not as persistent,” AccuWeather.com Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.
“The cold of last season was extreme because it was so persistent. We saw readings that we haven’t seen in a long time: 15- to 20-below-zero readings.”
In addition to the cold air, a big snow season could be in the offing. Higher-than-normal snow totals are forecast west of the I-95 corridor.
“Places like Harrisburg, down to Hagerstown getting into the mountains, the Appalachians, I think that’s where you’re going to see your bigger, heavier amounts,” Pastelok said.
Philadelphia, which received a whopping 68.9 inches last season, is forecast to close this season with snow totals just above normal. New York City will likely follow suit.
The I-95 corridor and eastward could fall victim to changeover systems, which will provide a messy wintry mix at times.
“I’m very concerned about the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast as far as extremes go this year,” Pastelok said.
Areas from eastern Texas all the way up to eastern Kentucky could be under the gun for ice events this season. The region will likely see this in January, but the I-10 corridor should be on guard for a sneaky late-January or early-February storm.
Overall, the region will have a very wet winter, but the timing of these storms will determine whether a flood risk exists.
“These are big storms that are going to form and put down a lot of rain, but there may be breaks in between,” Pastelok said.
“The Gulf hasn’t been disturbed from tropical activity, so the warmer waters may hang on into the middle part of the winter and give us that extra boost into some of these systems coming up the East Coast.”
The weather pattern, a weak El Nino, paired with the southern storm track and rich moisture source will set up Florida for a significant severe weather potential in mid- to late winter. Tornadoes will be possible from mid-January to February.
In a story similar to the Northeast, the winter season has several cold months planned for the Midwest, though not quite as extreme as last year.
Temperature wise, areas such as Duluth, Minnesota, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, may be 7-9 degrees warmer than last year’s three-month average.
Below-normal snowfall totals are also forecast.
Chicago could fail to reach 30 inches this year, and Minneapolis has an even greater chance of falling below normal.
Farther west, the northern and central Plains will endure roller-coaster temperatures. Fewer clipper systems than normal will reach down into the area, preventing high overall snow totals.
A weak El Nino pattern, which is expected to unfold, may lead to high moisture in the Southwest.
“That moisture source is needed to get above-normal snowfall for the region. I do believe there are going to be periods where moisture gets in there,” Pastelok said.
If it does, the Four Corners region, including Albuquerque, could get near- to slightly above-normal snowfall totals this year.
“Northwestern Texas, western Oklahoma, Kansas, they can also see near- to slightly above-normal snowfall this year,” Pastelok said.
As California suffers through its fourth and most extreme year of drought, the state is in dire need of precipitation this winter.
“California, the northern Sierra and Sierra Nevada are going to be below normal, although I do think that they are going to get enough snow to hold back the drought just a little bit from getting any worse than it is,” Pastelok said.
December will bring some rain to northern California, but the precipitation will ease off in the following months, making the region drier than normal by February. After a season of intense wildfires, the precipitation that reaches the Northwest will not be enough to prevent problems next year.
However, the winter isn’t all bad news for the drought-stricken region, Pastelok said.
The weather pattern will allow some Eastern Pacific moisture to be pulled in, causing some big events which will increase the snowfall rates in the mountains.
Additionally, Southern California looks to fare better than its northern counterpart with slightly above-normal precipitation this season, especially in areas farther from the coast.