January 2024 Forecast: Welcome to El Niño Winter

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Winter Forecast Updates Based on a Strong El Niño!

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Chill out! Our January weather forecast is here. Notably, the El Niño weather pattern is moving across North America. What does this mean for us weather-wise? Find out from the Old Farmer’s Almanac meteorologists. 

January 2024 Weather Predictions

As 2024 gets started, there will be the potential for snow on New Year’s Day from New England out through the Great Lakes, with rain and/or snow also likely across portions of the mid-Atlantic and Appalachians. Some showers will move across the Southeast. 

Dry weather and sunshine are expected from the Deep South up through the Plains and Upper Midwest, although temperatures will be cold despite the sunshine. Snow showers will impact the High Plains and Rockies, while there will be the potential for some rain and mountain snow toward the West Coast. Much of Alaska will be dry, while some heavy rain is possible across Hawaii. 

In Canada, there will be some rain and snow across the Maritimes and additional pockets of snow and rain across southern Ontario and southern British Columbia. It will be quite cold from the Prairies up through the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

january weather forecast, bunny in the snow

Let It Snow!

Looking at temperatures across the U.S. for the month of January, we do expect enough pushes of cold air to dive southward to keep much of the country below average for the month. The areas most likely to have above-normal temperatures will be New England and Alaska. In Canada, we expect above-normal temperatures across the Maritimes, southeastern Quebec, and the Northwest Territories, with temperatures running near or below average elsewhere.

Much of the eastern third of the U.S. will likely see above-average precipitation, which will run close to or even a little bit below average from the Upper Midwest through the Heartland. The Pacific Northwest will likely be drier than usual, as El Niño helps to keep storm tracks farther south in the West—a phenomenon that will also lead to above-normal precipitation across California and the Southwest. 

Above-average precipitation will also be pretty common across Canada, although western British Columbia will have below-normal precipitation. This lack of precipitation in western British Columbia is again due to storm tracks being shifted farther south due to El Niño.

Goodbye La Niña, Hello El Niño

Looking at our forecast for the winter, we see that after three straight years of La Niña, the El Niño that has come on fast and furious in recent months will indeed be with us throughout the winter. However, there is still some question about exactly how strong the El Niño will be

An area of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures just to the north of the primary ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) region (where the temperature departures are measured to determine whether there is an El Niño, La Niña, or neither) can shift southward and influence the strength of El Niño as winter progresses. This El Niño supports our forecast of another wet winter across California, with a drier season foreseen for areas from the Pacific Northwest up into western British Columbia. 

Learn more about El Niño and La Niña!

We expect winter to be warmer than normal across much of the U.S. East Coast, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, and Alaska. 

Elsewhere, we are predicting below-normal temperatures due to the increasing potential for shots of arctic air to come southward due to the polar vortex being displaced. The QBO (Quasi-Biennial Oscillation) is an alternating cycle of westerly and easterly winds that descend through the stratosphere above the equator. The winds’ direction can impact the polar vortex’s strength and placement during the winter. 

Easterly winds descend through the stratosphere, which should help dislodge the polar vortex at times this winter, sending cold pushes down into the U.S. The key to the colder forecast in many areas will be whether the magnitude of these cold pushes is intense enough to outweigh the magnitude of stretches of above-normal temperatures.

Don’t forget to order your copy of The 2024 Old Farmer’s Almanac!

About The Author

Bob Smerbeck and Brian Thompson

Bob Smerbeck and Brian Thompson, our meteorologists, bring more than 50 years of experience to our famous weather forecasts. Read More from Bob Smerbeck and Brian Thompson

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