Much of the US could see a warmer-than-average winter season

  • Federal forecasters are predicting an impact from La Niña on winter temperatures and precipitation.
  • The Great Lakes and portions of the Rockies could get slammed with higher-than-usual snow totals.
  • The South and the Northeast are expected to get a warmer-than-usual winter, with the Gulf Coast remaining dry.

It's been a dramatic fall across the United States.

Wildfires gutted wine country in California's Napa region. Hurricanes pummeled the US from Puerto Rico to Houston, and an oddly springlike wave of warm sun hit the Northeast last week.

But what's in store for the winter, which officially kicks off December 21?

Forecasters at the National Weather Service say they have seen some cooler-than-normal water swirling in the Pacific Ocean, coupled with stronger-than-usual winds above the water.

Click through for a look at the must-know winter 2017-2018 predictions:

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2017 winter weather predictions
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2017 winter weather predictions

This year's Farmer's Almanac predicts less precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, but other areas might not be so lucky ...

Source: www.almanac.com

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted La Nina will potentially emerge this winter season, bringing with it above-average precipitation and below-average cold temperatures.

Source: www.noaa.gov

But if La Nina does hit, it will impact each U.S. area in a different way ...

For example, the Rockies would likely be rocked with abundant snowfall, while the Midwest would be plagued with blasts of cold air.

Source: www.accuweather.com

Another more wonky model from Atmospheric and Environmental Research predicts that colder temperatures could hit the East Coast if there is a stratospheric polar vortex disruption.

Changes in the jet stream have a direct impact on weather patterns, and in the earliest days of December Americans could see a cold front and snow in the Plains and upper Great Lakes.

Averaging 44 inches of snow each winter, Boston is known to get slammed with tough weather. This year, NOAA predicts the historic city will see within 10 inches of that average.
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That has prompted an official La Niña watch. La Niña is a weather pattern that disrupts normal winter across North America. Typically, it causes the US to experience a wetter-than-usual winter across most of the top states and a drier-than-usual one across the bottom.

The "little girl" from the Pacific can also usher in unusual temperatures. Here's how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks things may look across the continental US from December to March:

The model suggests that many Americans could get a balmy winter, with mild temperatures wafting across much of the South and the Northeast.

But it may get chillier than normal in other areas, including the Pacific Northeast, northern Wyoming, and North Dakota. Snow totals this year could be very high across the northern plains — from the Rockies to the Great Lakes — giving skiers a reason to rejoice. Hawaii and western Alaska are also expected to have a soggy, precipitous season ahead.

Of course, experts caution that this is only a model and that weather is still (always) up in the air.

And not every forecaster is expecting La Niña. The Old Farmer's Almanac, a controversial source the Houston meteorologist Matt Lanza says is "about as good as going to a psychic," bases its long-term predictions largely on the sun's output. The OFA is predicting a cold, wet, snowy year across almost the entire US (with one bright spot of mild temperatures around Lake Superior). That's because the sun has been going through a period of low activity lately called "solar minimum," with fewer sunspots and solar flares bursting out of the sun.

The OFA acknowledges, though, that "most scientists believe that the magnitude of changes in solar activity is insufficient to have a significant effect on Earth's weather."

Americans will have to wait until winter's official start on the shortest day of the year (Dec. 21) to see how this all shakes out on the ground.

RELATED: A look back at winter storm Stella

29 PHOTOS
Winter Storm Stella -- March 2017 Nor'easter
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Winter Storm Stella -- March 2017 Nor'easter
Men plow snow in Times Square during a snowstorm in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. But after daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation for the city of New York, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: Ice covers cherry blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial after a snow and ice storm hit the nation's capital on March 14, 2017 in Washington City. The east coast of the U.S. is currently being pounded by a late season winter storm. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WORCESTER, MA - MARCH 14: Parked cars line a snowy street in Worcester, MA as a winter storm arrives in the region on Mar. 14, 2017. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: A man holds an umbrella as he walks past the steps of Federal Hall in the snow and wintry mix, March 14, 2017 in New York City. The blizzard warning for New York City has been cancelled and the National Weather Service is now predicting 4 to 8 inches for the city. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Cars make their way up a snow covered Interstate 95 near Greenwich, Connecticut March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped snow and sleet Tuesday across the northeastern United States where thousands of flights were canceled and schools closed, but appeared less severe than initially forecast. After daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker clears snow in Times Square as snow falls in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: People walk their dogs in the sleet and snow on March 14, 2017 in New York City. New York City and New Jersey are under a state of emergency as a blizzard is expected to bring over one foot of snow and high winds to the area. Schools, flights, businesses and public transportation are closed or restricted throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Men plow snow at the Times Square during a snowstorm in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: A man shovels snow in the sleet and snow on March 14, 2017 in New York City. New York City and New Jersey are under a state of emergency as a blizzard is expected to bring over one foot of snow and high winds to the area. Schools, flights, businesses and public transportation are closed or restricted throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Workers clear steps in Times Square as snow falls in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A woman cleans snow from her store front during a snowstorm in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: A man holds an umbrella as he walks through the street in the early morning hours in the Financial District, March 14, 2017 in New York City. Officials in New York and New York City have declared a state of emergency in preparation for Tuesday's blizzard conditions. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Times Square Public Safety Sergeant Baldwin Davis captures falling snow with his cellular device in Times Square in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 13: People walk along a snow-covered lakefront near downtown on March 13, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. After making it through January and February without any snow, about two inches of snow fell on the city this morning and another three to five inches are expected tonight. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park is covered in ice on March 13, 2017 as the weather continues to be below freezing. The northeastern United States braced Monday for what meteorologists predict could be the worst winter storm of the season, with blizzards feared to dump knee-high snow on New York. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker clears snow in Times Square during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A snow plow drives through Times Square as snow falls in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Cars are covered in snow in a general parking lot during the snowstorm at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2017. Some Chicagoland areas received up to 5 inches of snow, and more than 400 flights were cancelled at O'Hare. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Snow chains to be used on a New York City Department of Sanitation garbage truck is fitted with a snow plow in the west side depot March 13, 2017 to be used over the next two days as the city braces for a nor'easter that could dump as much as two feet of snow on the city. The National Weather Service issued a 24-hour blizzard warning from midnight Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday) for New York, America's financial capital and largest city, stretching north into Connecticut and south into New Jersey. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
A New York City Department of Sanitation plow moves sand around in the west side depot March 13, 2017 to be used over the next two days as the city braces for a nor'easter that could dump as much as two feet of snow on the city. The National Weather Service issued a 24-hour blizzard warning from midnight Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday) for New York, America's financial capital and largest city, stretching north into Connecticut and south into New Jersey. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
The skyline of New York appears in the distance as people walk past the waterfront March 14, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
REVERE, MA - MARCH 14: A downed tree on top of a car on Chamberlain Ave as Winter Storm Stella bears down on March 14, 2017 in Revere, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Locks are covered in ice on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. But after daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation for the city of New York, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
A man clears a sidewalk of snow in Brooklyn, New York, on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. But after daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation for the city of New York, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Men try to push a cab stuck in the snow on a street in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / ERIC BARADAT (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Cross country skiers enjoy a stroll in Central Park in New York city on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / ERIC BARADAT (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)
A public transportation bus is stuck unable to move up the hill in downtown Boston March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. After daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. / AFP PHOTO / Ryan McBride (Photo credit should read RYAN MCBRIDE/AFP/Getty Images)
Times Square is seen in the background as a man walks along West 59th street in falling snow in Manhattan, New York, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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