Winter weather outlook remains mild for much of US

By Tom Crawford

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) --{}For people whodislike cold weather of any sort, it's tough to beat temperatures in the mid70s in December. And it appears a large part of the U.S. could be in for awarmer-than-average winter.

According toNOAA forecasters, an El Nino that should have developed by now is stillwavering, which has made the winter outlook less certain than in previousyears.

"This is oneof the most challenging outlooks we've produced in recent years because El Niodecided not to show up as expected," said Mike Halpert, deputy director ofNOAA's Climate Prediction Center."In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in thetropical Pacific."

Because thereis still a window for an El Nino to emerge, a watch remains in effect.

According tothe NOAA, areas that battled droughts during the year are not likely to seeconditions improve during the winter.

While most ofthe western U.S. willexperience warmer-than-average temperatures, people living in the Hawaiian Islandsand in areas of Floridaoutside the panhandle will see cooler-than-average temperatures.

Hawaii, along with the Pacific Northwest and northern California, as well as parts of Wyoming,Utah and Nevada will see drier-than-average conditions.

The easternpart of the country falls into an "equal chance" category, according to theNOAA, meaning conditions are equal for above-, below- or near-normaltemperatures and precipitation.

Winterofficially begins on Friday, Dec. 21{}at 6:12 a.m. This is what's known asthe Winter Solstice. Solstice is actually a Latin term that means "thesun" and "to stand still." This is also the day the sun hasreached it's southernmost position, the Tropic of Capricorn or 23.5 degreessouth of the Equator. {}

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of theyear. After this date, the days start getting longer.{}But as the greatcomedian Steve Martin would say, "A day without sunshine is like, youknow, night."

As we move past Dec. 21{}and over the nextcouple of months, temperatures will remain cool because the sun will be well tothe south of the equator.

Spring stats March 20,{}2013, at 7:02a.m., which is the Vernal Equinox. That is when the sun is right over theequator. The tilt of the earth relative to the sun is zero, meaning there isequal daylight and darkness.