Record El Niño forecast to give North Dakota a warm, dry winter

This year’s El Niño could be the strongest recorded since 1950, according to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If current forecasts are accurate, North Dakota will consequently experience a warmer, drier winter.

Dacotah Bank temp display (RGB)

By BRYCE MARTIN | N.D. Group Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

This year’s El Niño could be the strongest recorded since 1950, according to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If current forecasts are accurate, North Dakota will consequently experience a warmer, drier winter.

Because of the large effects suggested by the El Niño forecast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued an El Niño advisory.

The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central Pacific.

The current El Niño arrived in March, as predicted by forecasters. Since then, above normal sea-surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have continued to increase.

According to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees or greater is likely to be observed in a portion of the Pacific Ocean, an event that has only been recorded three times over the last 65 years—recorded during the 1972-73, 1982-83, 1997-98 El Niño episodes.

That small temperature change leads to impacts already seen on the east coast of the United States, specifically a rather inactive hurricane season, and enhanced activity in the east and central Pacific Ocean. That activity is anticipated to last for the next few months. Further impacts won’t be visible until winter.

“Although we know what the typical relationships are between El Niño and global climate patterns, the climate system is far more complicated than just El Niño,” Halpert said. “So, none of the typical impacts are ever guaranteed.”

Halpert and Kevin Werner, director of the western region climate services, issued an update on the concerning El Niño forecast Aug. 13 during a media teleconference.

El Niño’s impacts are long lasting, spanning into the winter season and possibly even into early spring.

Halpert said that the forecasted El Niño would result in above average winter temperatures in North Dakota, largely for the area from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes. It would also result in below average winter precipitation for the same areas.

During an El Niño, the changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures affect the patterns of tropical rainfall from Indonesia to the west coast of South America, a distance covering approximately one-half way around the world, according to the NOAA. Those changes in tropical rainfall affect weather patterns throughout the world.

The advisory stated that the chances are greater than 90 percent that El Niño will continue through the northern hemisphere’s 2015-16 winter season, and around an 85 percent chance it will last into early spring 2016.

All models surveyed predict El Niño to peak with a strong event in late fall, early winter and continue into spring.

At this time, the forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño.







GAMES