Most people are familiar with El Niño, the periodic warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator. This patch of ocean warms for 6 to 18 months every 2 to 7 years and is not very well understood. It has been responsible for weather changes and extreme storms in the past, including the ice storm that blanketed the northeast 19 years ago during one of the stronger El Niño’s.
“For those that don’t habla, El Niño is Spanish for… the Niño” -Chris Farley. And this one is coming on strong, perhaps as strong as the ‘97-’98 event. New forecasts from NOAA have an 80% chance for El Niño to continue through early spring and 90% that it will last through the winter. This typically means a cooler, wetter South and Southwest with a warmer and drier northern region here in the States.
California, suffering from drought for the last decade could expect some relief in the form of additional rainfall through winter, however every El Niño is different and some El Niño years have seen below average rainfall, such as in 2006-2007.
There’s some good news that comes with El Niño’s effects. Stronger upper winds in the Caribbean create more wind shear and limit the development and strength of tropical storms.
Ultimately, this El Niño is shaping up to be a stronger event but what exactly that means for our weather in the U.S. is up in the air. See what I did there? *groan*