The ocean-atmospheric phenomenon responsible for warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean, better known as El Niño, has arrived.
Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center made the announcement yesterday. According to them, this year’s El Nino will be a weak one. Don’t expect any significant or widespread changes in global weather patterns. Forecasters do note that areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast could see a wetter-than-normal Spring due to the phenomenon.
“Based on the persistent observations of above-average sea surface temperatures across the western and central equatorial Pacific Ocean and consistent pattern of sea level pressure, we can now say that El Niño is here,” Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement.
Halpert added, “Many climate prediction models show this weak El Nino continuing into summer.”
Will this El Niño help alleviate the severe drought in California? Not likely says Halpert. “This El nino is likely too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California.”
What is Supposed to Happen During a Typical El Niño
A normal El Nino has significant impacts on much of the U.S. In the southwestern U.S., these impacts come in the form of wetter-than-average winters. This includes central and southern California.
The Northwest, northern Midwest and northern Mideast U.S. typically see warmer and drier winters. The southeast U.S. sees cooler and wetter winters on average.
The last El Nino event came in 2009-2010. This one was characterized as moderate to strong. The last very strong El Nino was in 1997-1998. Guess what happened? Heavy rains in the southwestern U.S. including California.
As for the near term? Some rain is expected in parts of northern California next Wednesday and Thursday.
The next 90 days show no major changes in precipitation for California according to NOAA (via TWC image below).