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Signs of El Niño winter growing in the Pacific


July 26, 2018 | View PDF

Signs are growing that a disruption is brewing in the Pacific Ocean that could impact the region’s upcoming winter, according to meteorologist Nic Loyd of Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. El Niño, the climate phenomenon triggered by periodic warming of ocean water in the tropical Pacific and influences weather that varies by regions throughout the world, appears to be coming back.

“A strong El Niño in the U.S. typically brings warmer than average winters to the Pacific Northwest, lots of rain to California and cool, stormy conditions to the southern-tier states,” he said.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced a 70 percent chance of El Niño conditions from December through February, an increase from 64 percent predicted only a month earlier.

“Should an El Niño emerge, the Pacific Northwest could see warmer than normal temperatures and less snow at lowland levels and in the mountains,” Loyd explained.

In winter 2015-16, one of the strongest El Niños on record threw the region off balance by causing unusually warm weather and a low mountain snowpack that contributed to drought conditions the following summer.

There’s no way to know for certain if the now-developing El Niño will ultimately turn into a monster or a shrimp. El Niño is but one factor in a complex global weather machine, he said.

“Because a powerful El Niño has the potential to shape global weather systems, scientists will continue to assign probabilities based on observations and computational models, even during our dog days of summer,” said Loyd.


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