NOAA releases 2021-22 winter outlook

Alabama expected to see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 11:55 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It may only be late October, but one of the most highly anticipated weather forecasts has been released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA issues their winter outlook every October, providing a look at what the U.S. can expect in a general sense during the months of December, January and February.

Above normal temperatures are favored in Alabama this winter.
Above normal temperatures are favored in Alabama this winter.(WSFA 12 News/NOAA)

With La Niña forecast to be in place through the entirety of the winter, NOAA’s outlook favors above normal temperatures across a good chunk of the country. That includes all of the Southeast and Alabama. In fact, most of Alabama is in that darker orange shade, which means a 50-60% chance of above normal temperatures.

That is a pretty high probability considering this outlook is issued months in advance.

When looking at precipitation, the probability for either above normal or below normal conditions isn’t as high in Alabama. Per the outlook, the southern half of Alabama has a 33-40% chance of below normal precipitation.

Below normal precipitation is favored in Alabama this winter.
Below normal precipitation is favored in Alabama this winter.(WSFA 12 News/NOAA)

That would indicate lower confidence in the precipitation department as compared to temperatures. Nonetheless, below average precipitation is favored in Central Alabama.

But what is “average” for us during the winter months? There’s nothing to gain by simply knowing it will be “above normal” or “below normal.” We need to know what “normal” is for those phrases to be truly meaningful.

  • Normal December high/low/precipitation: 62°/39°/4.99″
  • Normal January high/low/precipitation: 60°/37°/4.64″
  • Normal February high/low/precipitation: 65°/40°/4.88″

Even knowing our average values doesn’t provide us with everything we need to know. As the National Weather Service in Birmingham alludes to above, these are only generic outlooks that look at December, January and February as one entity.

So it’s possible that December could be very cold, but January and February are pretty warm. That would result in an above normal winter in terms of temperatures overall despite December featuring cold weather.

There are a number of scenarios that could result in the three-month period being “warmer than normal.”

Just look at last year as an example of this. We were in a La Niña, so the winter outlook was very similar to this year’s outlook. And all three months of the winter were warmer than normal and drier than normal, but there were some pretty cold days mixed in.

Despite the cold shots, the winter wound up warmer than normal overall! So take the outlook for what you will. We think there will still be some colder days in December, January and February.

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