Federal weather officials are predicting a 70-80% chance that this winter will bring a La Niña weather system to the northern hemisphere. That could mean dry conditions continue across the west.

The most recent reporting from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows neutral conditions, meaning Pacific Ocean water temperature is at or below average, but that is expected to transition into the cooler ocean temperatures associated with La Niña during the coming months, potentially through February. 

In practical terms, NOAA projections show fall and winter precipitation will likely be lower than normal in much of the country.

The outlook is for a 40-50% chance of below-normal precipitation for all of Texas and New Mexico and parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma. A far greater swath of the country — including southern California and Nevada, much of the Mountain West and Great Plains, all of Louisiana and Florida and most of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina — has a slightly better forecast of “leaning below” (33-40% chance) normal precipitation. The Pacific Northwest, Michigan, Vermont and the northern reaches of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Maine could see above-normal precipitation this winter.

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As California begins a new water year with the start of October, the projections suggest the traditionally wetter winter season may not bring enough rain and snow to pull the state’s driest areas out of drought, though much of northern California falls under the “neutral” prediction. That's having an equal chance of a wetter or drier winter than normal.

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