What to Expect for This Winter’s Weather

©. Melissa Breyer | NYC 2016

El Niño returns for the 2018/19 season, promising some unusual weather in the U.S.

Needless to say, the weather has been a bit exuberant as of late. Winter, spring, summer and fall have all been vying to break their own records – it’s hard to know what to expect anymore. But that doesn’t mean that meteorologists have stopped looking into their crystal balls to offer long-term forecasts.

For the 2018 to 2019 winter, our frenemy El Niño will return. Formally known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, El Niño is a weather pattern inspired by fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.

El Nino’s effects are felt across the globe, turning everything a bit topsy-turvy. Here’s what we can expect in the United States, according to the scientific soothsayers at AccuWeather.


This will be the kind of winter that always gets you. It starts out mild and just when you’re thinking you’ve made it through without too many brutally cold days – right when you start thinking, yes, an early spring would be lovely – bam, the script flips and delivers real winter weather in late January and February. That said, most of the big snowstorms will skip the far Northeast.


Like the northeast, winter weather will start out mild before delivering a big punch late in the season. “New York City and Philadelphia may wind up 4 to 8 degrees colder this February compared to last February,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok says. Snow lovers will be pleased to hear that there may be a few big snowstorms as well. (The photo above was taken in January of 2016 during one such big snowstorm, Winter Storm Jonas. It was the heaviest snowstorm on record in New York City.)

Great Lakes

Those in the Great Lakes can look forward to a late blooming winter as well. However, lake-effect snow will be less frequent than normal, even though water temperatures will be above normal. “An uptick is possible in late winter, but, for the season as a whole,” notes AccuWeather, “residents will receive less than they are accustomed to.”

Southeast & Tennessee Valley

“A very active winter” is the somewhat euphemistic description predicted for the Southeast and Tennessee Valley regions. After the new year, there will be ample opportunity for snow and ice threats, “with multiple storms forecast for the region.” Good times, good times.

Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast also gets a very active winter, with snow and ice threats, as well as multiple storms in January and February. Unlike last winter with its above-normal temperatures, mid- to late winter will bring frost and freezes to the area this year. By late winter, Florida may be prone to severe weather and flooding.

Midwest & Central/Northern Plains

States in the Midwest, and Central/Northern Plains get a slow start before outbreaks of frigid weather visit later in the season. “January and February are predicted to bring a dramatic change in temperatures,” Pastelok says. However, snow storms will be less frequent, with snowfall remaining below average. “It won’t be a big year for snow in the major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis,” he says.

Southern Plains

Parts of the Southern Plains will experience an active southern storm track, meaning snow and ice. Storms may arrive in December, but January and February will see the brunt of them, especially in areas from Dallas, and north of Houston, and all the way to Little Rock.

Meanwhile, cold blasts could be bad for farmers. “Anytime you get these deep shots of cold air like we’re calling for in the late season, there’s always a big threat in agricultural areas around central Texas," Pastelok says. “We’re worried there could be shots of cold getting down into the mid-20s in some places.”


Usually El Niño delivers wet and cool conditions to the Southwest; not so much this year. The region could be drier this winter, with that wet weather ending up in central California instead. And warmer as well; cities in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada could see temperatures as high as 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Pastelok says of the Southwest, “It will still be a bit of a down year as far as moisture goes. El Niño may not give them what they need and they could go back into a drought next year.”

California & the Northwest

Thanks to the ol’ “pineapple connection,” a deep flow of moisture may drench the west this winter. You know the drill: drought, drought, drought .... torrential rain, torrential rain, torrential rain.

“Places on the West Coast could get hammered,” Pastelok says.

Central California all the way to Oregon is likely to get the heaviest rain; with potential flooding and mudslides. January and early February are expected to be the stormiest. But it’s good news for winter sports enthusiasts. "Ski areas from Washington to central and Northern California will have a good year with an extra boost possible from the late December and January pattern," he adds.

See more in the video below. And prepare to bundle up!