AUSTIN (KXAN) — The likelihood of transitioning to an El Niño climate pattern has continued to increase, prompting the Climate Prediction Center to issue an El Niño watch.
According to the Climate Prediction Center an El Niño Watch is issued “when conditions are favorable for the development of El Niño conditions within the next six months.”
We’re currently not experiencing El Niño. In fact, we’re in an ENSO Neutral pattern, which means neither La Niño or El Niño. Remember, ENSO stands for El Niño Southern Oscillation and is the name for the climate pattern impacted by the warmer- or cooler-than-normal waters of the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. When the waters are within 0.5ºC of normal, we’re considered ENSO Neutral, and no predictable changes in our weather pattern are expected to result from the water temperature in that part of the Pacific.
Chances of El Niño
The odds of El Niño have ramped up significantly over last month’s update. Last month ENSO Neutral was expected to continue through the May-July three month period before a switch to El Niño July-September. Now, El Niño is likely to begin May-July with the odds of El Niño rising to 87% by November-January 2024, indicating a very high likelihood of El Niño heading through next winter.
Climate Prediction Center forecasters had warned about the “spring unpredictability barrier” that makes it hard to forecast ENSO during the spring months, however in the April bulletin they write “the recent oceanic Kelvin wave plus recurring westerly wind anomalies are anticipated to further warm the tropical Pacific Ocean. The coastal warming in the eastern Pacific may foreshadow changes across the Pacific basin. Therefore, an El Niño Watch has been issued.”
4 in 10 chance of a ‘strong’ El Niño
While the odds of just El Niño have risen, so have the chances that the El Niño ends up being a “strong El Niño.” A strong El Niño is when the temperature anomalies in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific exceed 1.5ºC. The odds of a “strong” El Niño are up to 41% by November-January 2024.
How does El Niño impact our weather in North America?
El Niño usually brings wetter than normal weather to the southwest, most of the south and parts of the southeastern United States.
Drier than normal conditions should be expected for the Midwest and lower Great Lakes.
Warmer than normal temperatures can be expected for the Pacific Northwest and many of the northern tier states.
Here in Central Texas, El Niño should bring wetter and cooler weather this coming winter.