Fall and winter weather outlook: ‘Neutral’ phase means anything goes

Data pix.

SEATTLE -- Western Washington has had some wild weather lately, from the rare lightning storm over the weekend, to heavy rain and flooding on Monday. As we head into the fall and winter seasons, can we expect more?

Long-range predictions point to conditions that may be favorable for intense rain and flooding in the coming months. The El Nino weather pattern is over and we have entered the "neutral" phase, which has produced major flood events in the Pacific Northwest. A neutral year is neither El Nino (typically produces warmer and drier weather) nor La Nina (cooler and wetter conditions) and that makes forecasting tricky! We could see periods of heavy rain and then periods of nothing. Anything goes!

That's why the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an equal chance of seeing wetter, near-normal, or drier conditions for Washington during the fall and winter months. When it rains, it may pour! The rain and flooding could be more intense because we're expecting warmer than average temperatures this fall and winter.

Long-range forecasts are calling for a 40% probability Washington will see above-normal temperatures September through February. Part of the reason for unseasonably warm conditions is the blob of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean.

The blob may contribute to less snowpack this winter because the warmer air coming off the ocean can push freezing levels higher. But skiers and snowboarders, don't panic! We certainly can get a snow event or two this winter and snowpack will likely be closer to normal. Also important to note, neutral years can also increase our chances for a strong wind event.

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