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Warmer, drier winter predicted for Southern California

October 21, 2010 |  2:41 pm

The Southwest can expect a warmer and drier winter than average -- notwithstanding recent rains that have persisted longer than first predicted.

This forecast comes from the annual winter outlook released Thursday by the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The weather driver this season is La Niña, the feisty distaff to El Niño, that other well-known offshore event.

La Niña is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño, by contrast, is associated with warmer than normal water temperatures. Both climate patterns typically occur every two to five years, influencing weather patterns throughout the world, frequently leading to extreme weather.

The regional outlook includes colder, wetter-than-average weather in the Pacific Northwest and increased mountain snow. But drought conditions will be exacerbated in the Southwest, with heightened wildfire conditions. It also will be hotter and drier in the Southern Plains, the Gulf Coast states and the Southeast.

Weather in the Northeast will be harder to predict because of another weather phenomenon -- the North Atlantic Oscillation-- but that’s another story.

-- Howard Blume