Forecasters Predict Typical El Niño Winter

Texas Flag on a winter day
Texas Flag on a winter day | Image by Lea Bouknight/Shutterstock

National weather forecasters released predictions for the coming winter, and the effects of El Niño are factoring in heavily.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday that a mild winter lies ahead for most of the country.

A strong El Niño has been building, which largely holds sway over NOAA’s predictions. The last time the weather phenomenon hit with such strength was in 2015 and 2016. The United States ended up clocking its warmest winter on record.

El Niño is a cyclical warming of sea surface waters in the eastern Pacific along the equator that results in the jet stream — a band of air flowing from west to east around the northern hemisphere — shifting south.

For Texas, this usually means cooler, wetter weather as the polar air collides with tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA predicted that Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the Southeast will get some long-awaited drought relief from December through February.

“An enhanced southern jet stream and associated moisture often present during strong El Nino events supports high odds for above-average precipitation for the Gulf Coast, lower Mississippi Valley, and Southeast states this winter,” explained Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch of the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, per a news release.

Meanwhile, regions to the north can expect drier, warmer weather, with stormy conditions in store for states in the Northeast.

“The greatest odds for warmer than average conditions are in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and northern New England,” the NOAA news release reads.

However, the nor’easters in store for the East Coast are not expected to bring the mounds of snow seen last winter due to expected above-average temperatures. As covered by The Dallas Express, in late January, a deep freeze set in after a powerful storm, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people.

Nonetheless, some states along the East Coast might see some heavy snowfall if the timing is right, as seen during the “Snowmageddon” blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet around Washington, D.C. in 2010 during El Niño, Gottschalk told NPR.

Florida will likely get some severe weather, as is typically the case for the state during El Niño. California, which saw atmospheric rivers last winter, is expected to have another wet one.

While Texans will be glad to see some reprieve from the drought and its economic impacts, such as higher food prices, a few weeks of rain are needed before the water deficit can be reversed.

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