The latest Winter Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service was released Thursday, and the trend remains warmer and drier than an average winter overall for Montana and northern Wyoming.
There is a 50 percent chance of warmer than average temperatures for December through February across Montana, and about a 40 percent chance of temperatures running on the warm side in northern Wyoming and the Dakotas.
There is a 33 percent to 40 percent chance of drier than typical winter months, based on a 30 year average.
With some areas of northern Montana under dry conditions to severe drought, concerns could increase.
The forecast is meant to give an idea of what the winter months may be like in general, and are not meant to indicate how much warmer or drier than average winter may actually be. And there will still be periods of cold and wet weather.
The reason for the forecast is a 70 to 75 percent confidence an El Nino will develop, according to the prediction details. During an El Nino, warming sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator have been linked toward drier and warmer winters in our region.
The forecast is for a relatively weak El Nino, so the forecast is far from a slam dunk. Other large scale influences, such as the Arctic Oscillation and Madden-Julian Oscillation could offset much of the El Nino influence.