El Nino may not come together later this year

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Many forecasters were calling for the formation of a new “El Nino” later this summer or fall. El Nino is the abnormal warming of sea-surface temperatures along the Equatorial region in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

During El Nino years, our region often experiences milder than normal winters and below normal snowfall. Earlier this year, it appeared that we were heading for the development of this warm-water phenomenon, but recent data may say otherwise.

Early this year, sea-surface temperatures were consistently warming across much of the Pacific Ocean. Readings near the West Coast of South America were about 5 degrees above normal, which was pointing to a possible strong El Nino. However, recent data shows that the ocean waters near the Equatorial regions and other parts of the Pacific Ocean have been cooling down. In fact, sea-surface temperatures are now close to normal levels with only pockets of warm waters along the Equatorial regions. There are also very small areas of cooler than normal ocean waters in that part of the world. The dramatic drop in ocean temperatures is another indication of our crazy global pattern of wide weather “extremes,” likely the worst cycle in more than 1,000 years.

In late February, it was announced that we were in a “La Nada,” the in-between cooler La Nina and warmer El Nino sea-surface temperature event. Based on this new information of ocean cooling, we will probably be in this new “La Nada” pattern into at least the fall season, if not longer.

According to the latest computer model forecasts, a few forecasters are still predicting the eventual onset of an El Nino event by the fall season. However, other statistical computer models are now becoming more conservative and indicate that ocean waters are still expected to climb along the Equator, but the warmth may not last long enough to quality as an El Nino episode. In other words, we may not see a new El Nino at all and this pattern would stay in this current “La Nada” phenomenon through at least the end of this year.

If this scenario turns out to be the case, our upcoming winter may see the return of at least near-normal snowfalls across the Inland Northwest. I know that many skiers and snowboarders would be very happy.

If we manage to stay in the La Nada pattern for the next few months and ocean temperatures remain about the same or cool down, conditions across the central U.S. would likely see an expansion of the milder and drier pattern that’s already plaguing some western sections of the Great Plains that could hurt food crops.

It’s almost hard to believe, but many stations in the central portions of the country were experiencing flooding rains during the early spring season. Now, many of those locations have dried up and many farmers have watched the mud in their fields turn to bricks.

If by some chance a new El Nino is declared this summer or fall, then we would likely see a big increase in moisture this fall and below normal snowfalls across the Inland Northwest. But, as I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I was visiting in California last week and met a gentleman who worked for the California Water Resources. He told me the Sierra Nevada Mountains had record amounts of moisture for the 2016-17 season as most locations were twice normal. If we stay in this “La Nada” pattern, California could turn drier this upcoming winter season, but in this crazy extreme cycle, anything is possible.

Speaking of California, the interior sections are in the middle of a long and intense heatwave. Many stations are expected to report high temperatures as much as 30 degrees above normal early this week. In the Sacramento area where I was visiting, this may be a record stretch of days with highs at or above 100 degrees for so early in the season. In Phoenix, Ariz., readings are expected to be near 120 degrees for much of this week.

As far as our weather is concerned, it should be pretty nice this week with highs in the 80s early this week before cooling into the 70s across the Coeur d’Alene area. As we move toward the end of the month, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more 80-degree readings, possibly to near 90 degrees, along with the chance of scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

July and August still look more “normal” thanks to the cooling waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean. However, there will be some 90-degree days mixed in along with lots of sunshine. Our summer season, at this point, looks like a good one.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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