NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) has transitioned to operationally use the second generation of their coupled ocean-atmosphere-land model, the Climate Forecast System version 2 (CFSv2), with advanced physics, increased resolution and refined initialization to improve the seasonal climate forecasts. We present a first look at the capability of CFSv2 on surface air temperature and precipitation predictions based on analyzing the 28-year (1982–2009) reforecasts. These variables are primary inputs to hydrological seasonal forecast procedures. Averaged globally, the CFSv2 increases the predictive skill for month-1 land surface air temperature and precipitation from the CFSv1 by 37% and 29%, respectively. The CFSv2 has comparable performance to the latest ECMWF model, the best among the current European seasonal forecast models. The soil moisture produced by CFSv2 also provides useful information in identifying several major drought events, especially over tropical regions. Though there is limited skill beyond month-1, the CFSv2 does show promising features for advancing hydrological forecast and application studies.