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Feds: Warm, wet through March

Odds favor above-normal temperatures and precipitation through winter.

The Climate Prediction Center's updated seasonal outlook, posted Thursday, doesn't have quite the certainty of its two-week forecast.

But the concept basically is the same: Key indicators are favoring above-normal temperatures, along with an active Gulf Coast-East Coast storm track, right on through the winter.

The reasoning in the forecast discussion probably could be summed up in one Spanish phrase – El Niño.

The climate center scientists are confident that the extreme warming of surface waters in a vast area of the tropical Pacific – about 5 degrees above normal in the key zone – has peaked.

Likewise, they are confident that significant warming will persist into spring, and the warming of the overlying air has some predictable impacts over the planet's circulation, and many, many more that are unpredictable.

It almost certainly will be a rather unpleasant winter for some snowbirds in Florida, generally damp and cool, and it's likely that Jersey beaches will be losing some sand from a potential harvest of nor'easters.

As for snow, despite the warmth, don't rule it out. Strong coastal storms have the potential to draw in cold air, assuming any is available to be mined.

The last three mega-El Niños coincided with three of the strangest winters on record.

The winter of 1972-73 remains the only snow-less one on record; February 1983 was crowned by a paralyzing blizzard that left what was then a record snowfall in Philadelphia and temporarily entombed motorists in the Lincoln Tunnel.

And for the entire winter of 1997-98 less than an inch of snow was measured in Philly, despite a robust sequence of coastal storms.

In the meantime, savor the low heating bills, and keep watch for outerwear sales.