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Dry and warmer-than-average winter expected in parts of U.S. with return of La Niña, NOAA says

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Climate pattern La Niña is returning for the second year in a row, bringing with it warmer-than-average temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns for many parts of the U.S. this winter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.

Forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said La Niña, which brings colder-than-average water to the central Pacific Ocean, could potentially prolong drought conditions in the western half of the country.

The Northern Plains and the Missouri River Basin are forecasted to have a severe to exceptional drought this winter, NOAA reported. Drought conditions are expected in the Southwest and Southern Plains as well. The outlook also predicted that Southern California, the Southwest, Southeast and south-central Alaska will see less precipitation than average. 

"It could be significant," Jon Gottschalck, chief of forecast operations for NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said at a Thursday press conference. 

Meanwhile, La Niña may improve drought conditions in parts of the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, the Upper Midwest and Hawaii, scientists said. And certain regions including the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes may see more precipitation than usual this year. 

NOAA's 2021-22 winter outlook by NOAAClimate on YouTube

Areas in the South and along the East Coast are forecast to see warmer-than-average temperatures this winter, with the greatest probability in the Southeast, according to NOAA. The weather cycle may bring below-average weather conditions to southeast Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and eastward to the Northern Plains.

La Niña's strongest impacts will be seen at the end of winter, Gottschalck said.

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