El Nino winter likely and could mean big changes in weather – NBC Chicago


Forecasters are almost certain that an El Niño winter season is approaching and that could mean larger changes than expected in weather conditions.

Even in the Midwest.

According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a “greater than 95% chance” that El Niño continues through the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. The probability of a “strong” El Nino also increased from 66% last month to 71% this month.

According to the Climate Center’s ENSO blog, there is a 30% chance that this event could equal “some of the strongest El Niños since the 1950s.”

Last winter brought a surprising amount of rain and higher-than-normal temperatures to the Chicago area, and the latest forecast could mean a repeat, but forecasters warn that “no two El Niños are alike.”

“A strong El Niño does not necessarily equate to strong impacts at the local level; the likelihood of associated climate anomalies is often lower than the probabilities of an El Niño,” the NWS report said.

What is El Nino?

According to Dr. Jim Angell, Illinois state climatologist, El Nino refers to a time when sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, especially near the equator, are abnormally warm. This is the opposite of La Nina.

“These (increased water temperatures) alter weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean, resulting in altered weather patterns over much of the world,” Engel said.

According to the NWS, “During normal conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the trade winds blow westward along the equator, carrying warm water from South America toward Asia.” However, due to a process called “upwelling”, cooler water rises up from the ocean floor to replace warmer water. But due to El Nino, the trade winds weaken and the warm water is again pushed eastward.

What effect does El Nino have on weather conditions?

Typically, an El Niño year can mean that parts of the North America and Canada will be drier and warmer than normal, but the Gulf Coast and Southeast could see wetter than normal conditions, as well as the risk of flooding. may increase.

What about the Chicago area?

Typically for Illinois, the impact of an El Niño event varies depending on its size, intensity and duration, Engel said.

“As a result, impacts may vary from one event to another. Additionally, there may be other factors that influence Illinois weather during these events,” Engel said.

In general, some effects may include:

  • Summers are slightly cooler and wetter than average
  • Springs are wetter and cooler than average
  • winters are warmer and drier
  • Falls are drier than average
  • Snowfall is below average
  • Heating degree days are lower than average, which means lower heating bills.

Forecasts for the coming winter in the Chicago area suggest residents may experience below-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.

During the climatological winter, which occurs between December 1, 2023, and February 29, 2024, CPC says its projections are “upward biased” in terms of average temperatures in the Chicago area and throughout the Upper Midwest.

The same estimates are “biased down” to rainfall levels during that time.

Those projections currently hold for March as well, according to NWS officials.

Such a development would be consistent with how El Niño events typically unfold. During those instances, Illinois and the Chicago area typically see warmer temperatures and less precipitation than normal, especially in the fall and winter months, according to researchers at the University of Illinois.


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