(NEXSTAR) – Dreaming of a white Christmas? For most, it’ll be just a dream as national forecasters predict an unseasonably warm start to winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its predictions Thursday for the next three months, showing most of the country is in for above-average temperatures through the end of the year.


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A large swath of the country, seen on the map below, is shaded in orange, indicating a higher probability of above-average temperatures between November and January. The areas most likely to be unseasonably warm are New England and the Pacific Northwest, which is consistent with the El Niño pattern we’re expecting.

The precipitation outlook diminishes hopes of early winter snow even further. Northern states like Michigan and Montana, where snow on Christmas isn’t unheard of, are leaning toward having less precipitation than usual, according to NOAA’s updated outlook.

Meanwhile, down south, it’s looking like a wet winter for the Gulf, Texas, and the Southeast, even after hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30.

But before you take these maps as a promise, remember the outlook is meant to indicate probabilities for temperatures and precipitation over a three-month period. It can’t be used to predict the weather on any specific day this winter. You’ll need to wait until we get closer to really know what’s forecast for your area over the holidays.

As we get closer to winter, the impacts of El Niño are becoming clearer. La Niña and El Niño both tend to reach their peak in the winter.

During an El Niño winter, the southern third to half of the United States, including California, tends to get more precipitation. (Exactly where that dividing line falls varies from year to year.) Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Ohio Valley tend to be dry and warm.

Hawaii also often sees below-average rain during an El Niño fall, winter, and spring season.

Last week, national forecasters said there is a 75% to 85% chance that we see a “strong” El Niño through the winter season. There’s a 30% chance it ends up being one of the strongest ever recorded.