For the first time in four years, El Niño is in place to make its way into winter in the United States. The upcoming weather is said to be low on snow and extreme cold outbreaks and federal forecasters predict the North to become warmer than normal, and the South to get wetter and stormier.
El Niño “refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific,” according to Open Snow. It represents the warm phase of the ENSO cycle, resulting in warmer than average ocean temperatures.
A strong El Niño has a great influence on storm tracks and what the U.S. is likely to experience from December to February, with an extra “warming boost” from record high ocean temperatures and climate change, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their winter outlook release on Thursday.
El Niño is most powerful during the winter months, then sends a jet stream that moves storm fronts on strange paths, dominated by warm, wet Pacific air sinking south, according to NOAA.
In the northern part of the U.S. it is expected that snow storms will likely turn into rain because of the warmer temperatures.
Jon Gottschalk, operations branch chief of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said there is hope for possible Nor’easters for the East Coast. Parts of the Mid-Atlantic may get an increase in snowfall as a result, he said.
The NOAA predicted most of the U.S. to be warmer than normal, and this will stretch north from Tennessee, Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada, and nearly all of California. In the southern parts of the country starting from Massachusetts, down the East Coast, below Tennesee, stretching west through Texas, Kansas, up to Nevada will experience wetter weather conditions. Gottschalk stated that it will also be extra stormy later in the winter.
The NOAA doesn’t predict any part of the U.S. to be colder than normal this winter because of the record high temperatures over the summer months, but it is said that the rest of the country will have a forecast that is “near normal or have equal chances for warm, cold or normal,” according to the Associated Press.
NOAA scientists said climate change is an “added factor to their forecast”, especially because winter is a season where there is more burning of coal, oil, and natural gas.
The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center releases updated outlooks every three months with the next update available on November 16.
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