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Strong El Niño Seems To Be Dying; La Niña In The Wings?

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KPLU News

Perhaps you remember the long-term forecasts from a while back. Several months ago the rumors started. Then in October, the national weather forecasters at NOAA confirmed their prediction for a very strong El Niño in 2015-16.

These false-color images provided by NASA satellites compare warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures from the strong El Nino that brought North America large amounts of rainfall in 1997, left, and the current El Nino as of Oct. 1, 2015, right.

These false-color images provided by NASA satellites compare warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures from the strong El Nino that brought North America large amounts of rainfall in 1997, left, and the current El Nino as of Oct. 1, 2015, right.

El Niño is, of course, the Spanish word for a baby boy. In weather talk translated for the Pacific Northwest, it’s associated with generally warmer than normal winter weather.

The one predicted for 2015-16 promised to be a kid with a potent personality, bringing far warmer than usual temperatures, pushing the Pacific jet stream around and bringing and all kinds of other effects along with it.

‘The Boy’ Is Alive And Well

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says that prediction wasn’t wrong. An extremely powerful El Niño has, in fact, materialized. Look to Indonesia or Ethiopia for evidence.

“One of the top three in the last fifty years,” Mass said “and the implications are very profound for our region.” He says it’s been wetter than normal lately and that’s not inconsistent with an El Niño pattern. It’s definitely been warmer than usual – some ten degrees warmer on many days in 2015. The dry summer behind us brought record fires to the Northwest.

But it seems something interesting is happening. This child is, shall we say, precocious? Perhaps early bloomer is a good analogy.

He Appears To Be Weakening

“The models suggest that we’re peaking right now,” Mass said. “The El Niño is as strong as it’s going to be – and that during the spring and summer, El Niño’s going to weaken to what we call a neutral condition. And there’s even a chance there’ll be a La Niña next winter.”

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