Winter weather outlook remains mild for much of US - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Winter weather outlook remains mild for much of US

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By Tom Crawford

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- For people who dislike cold weather of any sort, it's tough to beat temperatures in the mid 70s in December. And it appears a large part of the U.S. could be in for a warmer-than-average winter.

According to NOAA forecasters, an El Nino that should have developed by now is still wavering, which has made the winter outlook less certain than in previous years.

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

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

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

While most of the western U.S. will experience warmer-than-average temperatures, people living in the Hawaiian Islands and in areas of Florida outside 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 eastern part of the country falls into an "equal chance" category, according to the NOAA, meaning conditions are equal for above-, below- or near-normal temperatures and precipitation.

Winter officially begins on Friday, Dec. 21 at 6:12 a.m. This is what's known as the Winter Solstice. Solstice is actually a Latin term that means "the sun" and "to stand still." This is also the day the sun has reached it's southernmost position, the Tropic of Capricorn or 23.5 degrees south of the Equator.  

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. After this date, the days start getting longer. But as the great comedian Steve Martin would say, "A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."

As we move past Dec. 21 and over the next couple of months, temperatures will remain cool because the sun will be well to the south of the equator.

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

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