New Jersey has up to a 50% chance of an upcoming winter that is warmer than usual, yet precipitation should fall in line with seasonal norms, according to a long-range forecast issued Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the National Weather Service.

"For temperature, the 2021 winter outlook favors warmer than average conditions across the southern U.S. and for much of the eastern U.S.," Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch for NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said on a Thursday conference call.

The Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes region, and parts of the Ohio Valley are forecasted for higher-than-normal precipitation in winter 2021-22, but that gradient spares New Jersey, cutting off in central Pennsylvania and lower upstate New York.

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"The rest of the country falls into the 'equal chances' category, meaning that there are equal odds for above, near, or below normal seasonal, total precipitation amounts during the winter months," Gottschalck said.

Map by NOAA/Climate.gov

And as Gottschalck pointed out, "equal chances" could well mean that precipitation will actually be lighter for the Garden State than in recent years.

Or, of course, heavier.

"The nature of a probabilistic forecast means that other outcomes are always possible, just less likely," he said. "And in fact, for our probabilities to be reliable, the less likely outcomes must occur from time to time."

Map by NOAA/Climate.gov

Townsquare New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow agreed that outlooks like these, by nature, allow for considerable wiggle room and are not meant to dictate specifics.

"Such seasonal forecasts carry the usual disclaimer that forecasting an entire winter season accurately is almost impossible. We can look at general trends and climatology, but even that is an educated guess," Zarrow said.

One comfort to New Jersey residents this coming winter is that precipitation is expected to be frequent enough to ward off any type of drought concerns.

In other parts of the country, that's not quite the case.

"A major region of concern this winter remains the Southwest, where drought conditions remain persistent in most areas," Gottschalck said. "Conversely, nearly all the eastern U.S. remains drought-free currently."

But Zarrow indicated that consistent patterns of precipitation do not always portend a record-making winter.

"When it comes to winter storms, one degree of difference on the thermometer can make all the difference between big rain and big snow," he said. "And it only takes one major storm to cause long-lasting headaches and make for a memorable winter season."

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