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New Winter Forecast Predicts Wet Season Ahead for Illinois

The big driver in the forecast is a La Nina weather event that is likely to develop next month

The Chicago area can expect a wetter winter this year, but temperature predictions aren't quite as clear, national forecasters said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday forecast higher-than-average precipitation for northeastern Illinois and many other northern states.

While that could mean more snow, the NOAA doesn't project seasonal snowfall accumulation. The group's report said these areas, including Chicago, can expect more liquid overall, from rain to sleet to freezing rain to, yes, potentially snow.

The NOAA provides seasonal outlooks for the country using National Weather Service models to determine temperature, precipitation and chances of drought.

Its report this week signaled a warmer winter from California through the Midwest to Maine and a colder than normal winter for southern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Tier states.

Illinois isn't included in either of those categories, but rather in a thin swath of states from Indiana to Idaho that signals normal temperatures, not leaning one way or the other on whether this winter will be warmer or colder than average.

The big driver in the forecast is a La Nina weather event that is likely to develop next month. La Nina, the flip side of El Nino, is the periodic cooling of the central Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns around the globe.

There was a La Nina for the early part of last winter. The 2015-2016 winter was record warm, about 4.55 degrees hotter than normal.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said it would be surprising if this winter is as warm.

Halpert said the southern U.S. is likely to be drier than normal, while the north from eastern Washington through the Great Lakes to upstate New York is likely to be wetter.

NOAA's winter outlook doesn't forecast snow or specific storms, but La Ninas tend to favor more storms coming from the west and north than from the Gulf of Mexico or the East Coast, he said.

Earlier this year the Farmers' Almanac, which bases its long-range forecasts on a 200 century-old formula, predicted the upcoming winter season will see frigid temps and snowfall of about 40 inches across the Chicago area.

“You somehow escaped last winter and you had no winter last winter so I think we’ll make up for that,” editor Peter Geiger said.

The private weather firm AccuWeather — whose chief executive officer was just nominated to head NOAA — forecasts a quite colder, wilder winter.

The company predicts a chilly winter with snow and ice from the Northeast to the Great Lakes with "Arctic cold blasts" in the Great Plains. It also predicts a milder and drier winter than last year for the Southern Plains, Southwest and California.

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