National forecasters say it could go either way this winter here in New Jersey: mild or harsh, snowy or dry.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center's Deputy Director Mike Halpert says a weak La Niña in the equatorial Pacific might contribute to a milder New Jersey winter.

"Historically, in La Niña winters we oftentimes do see less-than-average snowfall in the mid-Atlantic area." But Halpert hastened to add that while they are not issuing any snow forecasts right now, "it does not necessarily mean we cannot see above-normal snow, but just historically, the odds do favor less snow (with a La Niña) than the norm."

NOAA defines La Niña as unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

Halpert says that New Jersey this coming winter will fall into a zone of unpredictability that covers much of our region.

"As a good chunk of the northeast, both temperature and precipitation are equal chances."

NOAA drought expert Dave Miskus says New Jersey needs heavy precipitation to recharge the soil, but again, the outlook is uncertain.  Just this week, state officials once again hinted at the very real possibility of a drought warning in the state in 12 counties.

Elsewhere, the forecasters call for wetter-than-normal weather in the northern Rockies, the Great Lakes and western Alaska. They predict that it will be drier than normal across the entire southern United States and southern Alaska.

On the temperature front for the upcoming winter, NOAA says it will be warmer than normal across the South through the central Rockies, in Hawaii, in western and northern Alaska and in northern New England. Cooler conditions are most likely across the northern tier from Montana to western Michigan. They say the rest of the country will have an equal chance of colder or warmer than usual.

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