Meteorologists: This Winter Will Be Like Last

That seemingly simple finding is really quite profound, because it should have a ripple effect on major weather systems across the entire country.

Most importantly, Patzert says, "It will intensify and change the path of the weather and rain-delivering jet stream."

That high-altitude blast of air coming out of the west will nip the northwestern corner of the United States, and then continue across to the Rocky Mountains before dipping sharply to the south.

Patzert says that should prolong the three-year drought that has affected nearly the entire West Coast, and it should bring extremely cold weather to the Upper Midwest . NOAA's forecast is about the same, suggesting that most areas of the country will have a colder winter than the past few years, but the parent agency of the U.S. Weather Service hedges its bets on some areas.

The Northeast should be colder than normal this winter, the agency says, but the Mid-Atlantic States "have equal chances of above normal, normal or below normal temperatures and precipitation." What that means, translated into plain English, is "Who the heck knows?"

Maybe it's best to take another look at last winter.

Cold, Dry and Wet

According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, last winter was cooler than normal for most areas, but the warmest on record for Alaska. It rained more than usual in the central United States, but the drought continued in Florida and on the West Coast. There were near-record cold spells from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast, and record snowfall was reported as far south as Amarillo, Texas.

The Pacific Northwest, known for its misty weather, went four months without rain, marking up the second driest November-February season on record.

Patzert is confident the coming season will follow his script, but he admits he got off to a shaky start. Last week he predicted that California's drought will continue. A few days later, Los Angeles was hit with 1 ½ inches of rain.

"It was a huge storm, a monster," he says.

But it left the region still below normal in rainfall, and he says the message from the giant Pacific Ocean cannot be ignored. "When the Pacific speaks, we listen," he says.

If he's right, you get to enjoy last winter all over again.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

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