WASHINGTON (AP) -- Winter looks likely to be mild in the Midwest and dry in the Southeast, the government said Thursday.
Warmer-than-average temperatures are expected for the nation's center, especially Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said above normal readings are also likely in a large area extending from New Mexico, Colorado and Nebraska in the west to southeastern South Dakota and southern Wisconsin.
Most of Michigan is in the warm area, which extends east to western New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, the western edge of Virginia and North Carolina and northern Georgia.
The rest of the 48 contiguous states have equal chances of being warmer or cooler than normal, the forecast said.
Most of Alaska is expected to be warmer than normal, as are the westernmost of the Hawaiian islands. The Big Island of Hawaii is expected to be cooler than usual for winter, which meteorologists define as December through February.
Turning to rain and snowfall, the outlook is for wetter than normal for the season in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.
Dryer than normal is expected the southeastern and Gulf Coast states, extending westward across Texas to New Mexico and most of Arizona. The strongest chance for unusually dry weather is in north Florida, southern Georgia and the coastal Carolinas, as well as along the southern New Mexico-Arizona border.
The rest of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, have equal changes of wetter, dryer or normal conditions.
The forecasters said long term forecasts are especially challenging this year because neither the El Nino or La Nina conditions are under way in the Pacific Ocean. Those warmer or cooler than normal water readings tend to affect climate across the country.
Because other patterns are harder to predict, Michael Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, said, "We expect variability, or substantial changes in temperature and precipitation across much of the country."