Winter: A mild outlook

Accu-Weather, the commercial service in State College, already has made as splash by calling for a snowier-than-normal winter along the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast coasts.

The government's Climate Prediction Center doesn't get into snow forecasts, but the winter outlook it posted this week offers some hope for those wouldn't mind a repeat or last winter, or a reasonable facsimile.

The climate center is saying the odds are tilted toward above-normal temperatures in about 60 percent of the country, from North Carolina to Idaho, in the Dec. 1-Feb. 28 period, and in Alaska.

Usually, you can count on the weather in Anchorage being the mirror opposite of Philadelphia's.

But this winter will be influenced by El Nino, the government says. Sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are above normal, and likely to stay that way.

Given that weather moves west to east, once again El Nino will have some impact on the weather here and in Alaska, but it's not clear precisely what.

In the discussion released Thursday, the climate center says this is unlikely to be a strong El Nino, but it will be enough to affect the U.S. winter.

As always, the course of the winter will depend mightily on air-pressure patterns in the far North Atlantic, which are not predictable over the long haul.