Will this winter be a beauty or a beast?

Winter Outlook 2012-2013

(WXYZ) - The leaves on many trees have changed and Halloween is right around the corner. Before you know it, we'll begin forecasting snow on a regular basis. One of the most frequent question 7 First Alert Meteorologist get these days is "What can we expect this winter?".

While this is a common question, it's not an easy one. Long term forecasts depend on weather and atmospheric phenomenon in far flung places that are always in motion. One of the most prominent is the El Nino/ Southern Oscillation in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño, and the reverse - La Nina, are characterized by unusually warm (El Nino) or cool (La Nina) water in the Pacific.

In the U.S., strong El Nino years are characterized by milder winters in the northern states and wetter conditions in the SE. In La Nina years more frequent cold outbreaks occur for northern states and more quick moving Alberta Clippers.

This year neither El Nino nor La Nina are dominate. Expected El Nino conditions haven't developed as expected and this makes the long term forecast challenging.

Warmer than normal conditions are expected out west, but Michigan will have an equal chance of "above," "average" or "below" normal temperatures.

This is also the case for precipitation - equal chances for "above," "average" or "below" normal rain/snow.

Check out the photo to the left where you can see a graphic from NOAA showing the outlook for the entire nation.

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