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

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s the million dollar weather question every year around this time – what will our winter be like?

We have literally seen it all in the last few years. Need I remind anyone of the record smashing 110.6 inches of snow that fell just two years ago? Contrast that with last year when it took until January 17th before we got an inch of snow to fall in Boston and we needed a late-season April snowstorm just to get our total over 30 inches!

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The wild winter swings in New England are legendary. So, trying to forecast a season in advance here is certainly a challenge. The WBZ-TV weather team will publish our official winter forecast later this fall, but on Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out with their prediction.

No surprise, this year is going to be much different than last.

The biggest change actually comes from the central Pacific Ocean. Last winter we had one of the strongest El Nino’s ever recorded. That was a major factor (and the overriding one) in the winter weather here in New England and across the entire country.

As of now, El Nino is long gone and a weak La Nina is forecast for the next several months. La Nina is essentially the opposite of El Nino. Instead of a warming in the Pacific off of Central and South America (El Nino), during a La Nina the water in that same region is abnormally cool. How much this will come into play in New England remains to be seen as other, more local atmospheric factors may play a bigger role this year (including blocking over the northern Atlantic and Greenland).

So what is the official NOAA forecast for the coming winter?

Here are some of the headlines:

PRECIPITATION

Drier than average across southern tier of the United States, especially in Texas, Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

Wetter than normal across parts of the northwest including Montana, Idaho and into the Dakotas.  Also likely wetter than normal in the Great lakes and Ohio Valley.

(Image credit: NOAA)

(Image credit: NOAA)

New England: NOAA calls for “equal chances” of wetter vs. drier than average.

TEMPERATURES

Likely warmer than average across most of the southern half of the Country from California to Texas to Florida.

There’s a better chance of cooler than normal temperatures in the upper Midwest.

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(Image credit: NOAA)

(Image credit: NOAA)

New England: NOAA is calling for “equal chances: of above average vs. below average temperatures, with the exception of Maine, where they are forecasting a greater likelihood of above average temperatures.”

DROUGHT

NOAA forecasts the following with respect to the ongoing drought here:

New England: “Will see a mixed bag, with improvement in the western parts and persistence to the east.”

SNOWFALL

NOAA does not predict seasonal snowfall accumulations but they did note the following:

“La Nina winters tend to favor above average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies and below average snowfall in the mid-Atlantic.”

So, likely less info than you were hoping for our region, but this is fairly typical from a NOAA forecast as they are forecasting generalities for the entire country.

What can you take away from this forecast for New England?

NOAA is forecasting the likelihood of a fairly average winter for us.

Again, it’s highly dependent on the eventual strength of La Nina as well as several other large scale atmospheric factors which will unfold in the coming weeks and months.

Stay tuned!

Our WBZ-TV winter outlook, complete with snowfall forecast ranges will be out later in November, followed by a half-hour winter weather special in early December!

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Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ