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NOAA releases 2023-24 winter outlook: What to expect in central Indiana

Ryan El Nino Winter 9/27

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has released its winter outlook for the 2023-24 season. In central Indiana, the outlook is leaning towards above-average temperatures from December to February. It also calls for below-average precipitation within this same time frame for Indiana.

Photos courtesy of NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center

It appears that we’re not alone in this warmer and drier climate outlook. Our northern neighbors up in Michigan are looking at even warmer and drier conditions than normal this winter. You’ll notice that most of Indiana is in the lighter orange and brown colors on the map and not the deeper colors. This signals to us that while things will be drier and warmer than a typical winter, it shouldn’t be by a significant amount.

Factors in this outlook

The biggest driver of this winter outlook across the U.S. is the development of El Niño. The last three winters we have been in the La Niña phase. El Niño and La Niña are both phases in the ENSO climate pattern.

In an El Niño phase, warmer than average water temperatures are present off the western South American coast due to weaker trade winds. This has a domino effect on the jet stream and weather globally. During the opposite phase, La Niña, cooler than average water temperatures set up in this same area.

This outlook from the Climate Prediction Center does resemble what a normal El Niño pattern would look like. A strong moisture feed usually develops in this type of pattern through the southern U.S. As a result, wetter and cooler than normal conditions can develop in the southern U.S. during an El Niño winter.

The El Niño setting up this winter may be particularly strong. The last strong El Niño winter was 2015-2016.

Recent Winters

Central Indiana has struggled to pick up snow in recent winters. Eight of the last ten winters (December to February) have had snowfall below the average of 21.2 inches. In 2022, Indianapolis finished with below-normal snowfall and above-average temperatures.