September 30, 2016
In the North, look for cold and snowy conditions stretching into spring 2017. In the South, drier and milder weather is expected to dominate the season, except for the Southeast where a chilly January threatens to damage regional citrus crops. Here’s a closer look by region.
Above-normal Northeast snowfall
“The Northeast is going to see more than just a few, maybe several, systems in the course of the season," warns Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather long-range forecaster. Last winter, most of the snowfall came from a few heavy-hitting storms. This winter will last into the early or middle part of spring, he predicts, and will feature frequent snow events.
Overall, this region will total a below-normal number of subzero days. Even so, temperatures will average 3 to 5 degrees F lower than last year.
Bitter cold to grip Midwest
Old Man Winter won't hold back in the Midwest and Northern Plains. Pastelok says winter will have shots of brutally cold air slicing through the region.
Developing snowpack in early December may contribute to even colder weather. Temperatures will plummet as the season goes on, averaging 6 to 9 degrees F lower overall than last winter.
"There’ll be some nights, especially if there's snow cover in the heart of winter, that could get down to 20 or 30 below, especially in parts of Minnesota like International Falls and Duluth, and parts of the Dakotas," he adds.
Cold air will remain entrenched across the Midwest after arriving in late November. Coupled with warmer waters over the Great Lakes, an early start to the lake-effect season is in store. "We're going to kick this season off pretty quick, especially with the western lakes. But even the eastern lakes will get involved, and it’ll extend all the way out to January."
Late winter in southern Plains, Gulf Coast
Fall-like weather will linger into December across the Southern Plains and Gulf Coast. "A turnaround could come into late December and January as chillier air masses work down from the north," claims Pastelok.
While the milder weather will retreat, dryness will stick around, becoming a major theme of the season. The region from Dallas to Little Rock may miss out on big snowstorms this year. But a few disruptive ice events aren’t out of the question.
Citrus freeze risk in Southeast
Winter will slowly creep into the Southeast, as very mild air hangs on through December. But the new year will usher in a pattern change as sudden bursts of cold air penetrate the region.
"We have a shot at seeing a damaging freeze in central Florida in mid to late January," notes Pastelok. That could spell disaster for the area's citrus farmers.
Winter to blast Northwest early
Winter will waste no time in the Northwest and Northern California. "They're going to start out pretty wet, especially from Northern California into the Northwest Coast," says the meteorologist. "Right off the bat in December, we’ll start to see the snow piling up in the mountains."
November and December will see the most-wintry action. Then, high pressure ridges will build, and stormy weather will ease back in late January and February.
Southwest to be dry and warm
While moisture aims for the Northwest, warm and dry conditions will span much of the season for Central and Southern California and the Southwest. "December is looking very warm, and we could break some record-high temperatures," suggests Pastelok.
For Southern California, the pattern will exacerbate ongoing drought conditions. "We're in a pattern that doesn't really show a lot of rain coming toward Southern California,” he adds, “so I don't expect too much relief."
What precipitation does fall in California will aim primarily for the north. But it’ll fail to have the significance of last January when the region was hammered by heavy rain and snow.
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