The coming winter will be 4% colder than last year and the coldest the United States has experienced in four years, but it will still be 1% warmer than the 30-year (1971-2000) normal, according to MDA EarthSat Energy Weather.

The Rockville, MD-based forecasting firm said temperatures during December, January and February will be warmer than normal across the country's southern tier, from Texas to the Southeast. Seasonal to below-normal temperatures will be seen across the northern tier, including the Pacific Northwest, Chicago and the Northeast, the forecaster said. Western states were forecast to average closer to normal temperatures.

Weather this year continues to be the opposite of 2006, according to Matt Rogers, MDA EarthSat deputy director of weather.

"Instead of a cool autumn and a very warm start to the winter, this year looks to unfold in reverse with a currently very warm fall translating into a colder than normal heating season start. Parts of the Midwest and East could even see snow as early as [this] week," Rogers said.

According to MDA EarthSat, a colder December, warmer January and a mixed February are likely this year. The MDA EarthSat winter forecast conflicts somewhat with other recently released long-term projections.

An extended winter weather forecast by Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi and his AccuWeather.com team called for a cooler-than-normal beginning and end to the winter, wrapped around three months of higher temperatures that could make it a warmer season than last year and one of the 10 warmest winters ever for the southeastern United States (see NGI, Oct. 29). Bastardi's winter forecast was generally in agreement with recent predictions from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others calling for a relatively warm winter (see NGI, Oct. 22).

All of the forecasters seem to agree that an ongoing La Nina event -- cooling ocean surface temperatures off the western coast of South America, which have been found to disrupt normal weather patterns in the United States -- will continue to influence weather heading into the winter months. MDA EarthSat forecast that the current La Nina situation will remain in the weak to moderate range this winter.

Still to be seen is how the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season ends. With the exception of Noel -- a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 60 mph, currently forecast to stay approximately 100 miles east of Florida -- there has been little tropical weather news in recent weeks.

Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said the La Nina event will cause above-average activity and could extend the hurricane season, which runs until Nov. 30 (see NGI, Oct. 8). If CSU's October-November forecast comes to pass, there will be a total of 17 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense hurricanes during the entire hurricane season. (CSU forecasters said the National Hurricane Center will likely upgrade Karen, a tropical storm that remained at sea from Sept. 24 to Sept. 29, to hurricane status during post-season analysis, bringing the total number of Atlantic hurricanes to seven.) WSI Corp. has said it expects a total of 14 named storms, six hurricanes and four intense hurricanes this year (see NGI, Oct. 1).

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