By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released their much anticipated winter weather forecast Thursday. Not surprisingly, the main driver behind their winter forecast remains the very strong El Nino which continues to increase in strength on the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it is nearing the level of the record shattering El Nino back in the late 1990’s.

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Typically, a strong El Nino means an overall milder winter for many in the U.S. and also a wetter one for the West Coast and parts of the South. This would be hugely beneficial for areas like Southern California where a crippling drought has been in place for quite some time.

What about New England?

A quick glance at the NOAA probability maps shows a greater chance of a milder than average and wetter than average winter here. Note that New England lies on the lower end of these probabilities and, therefore, NOAA doesn’t feel as strongly about the forecast here as opposed to other regions of the country.

(Image credit: NOAA)

(Image credit: NOAA)

For instance, in parts of Texas and Southeastern U.S., they have high confidence in a wetter than average winter. While in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest they have a high confidence in a milder than average winter.

I should make mention that when they reference “winter” they are speaking about the months of December-January-February, the months that make up “meteorological winter.”

So what should we take from this outlook for our area?

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First, realize that it is still early. This forecast will be refined as we get closer to December and have more data to work with on the developing El Nino and other key atmospheric players.

But, I think you can clearly infer that NOAA is forecasting a much more “tolerable” winter here than the last.

An active southern jet stream (typical with El Nino years) will bring a good deal of storminess to the Southeastern U.S., some of which will likely come up the coastline and affect New England. However with the lack of deep and persistent cold air here, you can infer that perhaps we will have more a “mixed bag” of precipitation events, not the bounty of powder snow storms of last winter.

(Image credit: NOAA)

(Image credit: NOAA)

Inevitably, there will always be some cold outbreaks here too.  This forecast of a “higher chance of milder winter” does not mean we won’t have our share of cold and snow. Instead, it likely means we will see our ups and downs in the temperature and snow department, with periods of some winter reprieve or relief.

Long range forecasting has improved greatly over the years but the atmosphere remains a complex and near impossible riddle to completely solve.

We will have our own winter weather forecast later in November and a full winter weather special coming on WBZ-TV in early December. In this special, our entire weather team will break down and discuss all the factors involved this winter, leading to our temperature and snowfall prediction. More information to come shortly on the official WBZ forecast.

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Stay tuned!