El Niño is making a return. What does that mean for our area?

El Niño influences weather patterns across the US.
El Niño influences weather patterns across the US.(NOAA)
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 5:04 PM EDT
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(WHSV) - El Niño is making a return and it could arrive as soon as early this summer. The Pacific Ocean has a specific water circulation that changes from time to time. During its normal circulation, trade winds blow west along the equator, and this takes warm water into Asia from South America. That warm water from South America is then replaced by cooler water.

During El Niño, the trade winds weaken. The warm water stays more to the east closer to North and South America. This changes the weather pattern as it causes the Pacific jet stream to move south of its typical position. This results in usually warmer and drier weather across the northern US and cooler and wetter weather across the southern US.

Durning El Niño, the weather pattern changes to a warmer, drier pattern in the  northern US and...
Durning El Niño, the weather pattern changes to a warmer, drier pattern in the northern US and a wetter, cooler pattern in the southern US(NOAA)

In our area, El Niño can have various effects on our weather. When an El Niño occurs, it usually results in cooler-than-average temperatures across our area in the summer. This isn’t always true, but 6 out of the last 7 strongest El Niños since 1950 ended up leading to at or below-average temperatures for the months of June, July, and August.

Another thing that El Niño commonly leads to is a less active hurricane season in the Atlantic. Typically with El Niño, there is more wind shear in the Atlantic and more stability. Wind shear is not good for developing or sustaining hurricanes as shear tears these storms apart. More stability in the atmosphere prevents the lift required for these storms to form. This doesn’t mean we won’t see hurricanes this summer and fall but it likely won’t be a very active hurricane season.

El Niño can also play a role in the snowfall that we see during the winter. Typically during El Niño years, there tends to be more snowfall in our area. For snow lovers, that’s a good sign considering how little snow our area received this past winter.