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Most of the U.S. should expect a warmer-than-average winter

The National Weather Service issued its forecast for the winter on Thursday, and most of the U.S. should expect warmer-than-average temperatures, on the assumption that a weak La Niña weather pattern develops in the Pacific. While the lower two-thirds of the U.S., Hawaii, and the northern and western parts of Alaska will be unusually warm, said Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center, there will also be "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region" and a dry winter across the south.

If the forecasts of a warmer-than-average winter are true, it would be the third one in a row — last winter was the sixth warmest on record, and the one before that the warmest ever recorded, The Washington Post notes. "We're not anticipating the kind of record warmth we've seen the last two winters," Halpert told reporters, though "the odds of seeing three Top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated." The warming climate from greenhouse gasses "does, undoubtedly, play a role" in the warm winters, he added, but the "driving force" this year is the La Niña.

The forecast is seasonal and doesn't preclude cold fronts or snowstorms anywhere, Halpert cautioned, and there's only a 55 percent 65 percent chance of a La Niña developing.