The Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has stated with 100% certainty that El Niño will persist through early winter, and there is a 90% or higher likelihood of its continuation into spring.
But what exactly does this mean for the weather across the United States?
El Niño, known for its capacity to divide the country regarding weather patterns, has a variable impact each year. While the specific dividing line may shift, it typically forecasts a wetter winter for the southern third of the United States, including California.
In contrast, regions like the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley tend to experience drier and warmer conditions.
Influence of El Niño
Despite the strong influence that El Niño exerts on weather patterns, it does not guarantee a uniform outcome.
According to Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center, “El Niño appears to be the great snowfall suppressor over most of North America.” This means that, contrary to expectations, El Niño does not usually bring widespread winter storms and feet of snow.
One of the critical reasons for this inconsistency is that El Niño may bring additional precipitation to the southern United States.
Still, it is only sometimes cold enough in those areas to transform that moisture into snow. Consequently, while the south of regions experience more rainfall, snowfall still needs to be improved.
There is a notable exception in the mountainous areas of the West, such as the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and the southern Rocky Mountains, where El Niño can indeed lead to extra snowfall.
Conversely, regions like the Great Lakes, parts of New England, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest typically see reduced snowfall during an El Niño winter.
The warming and drying influence of El Niño in these areas results in less snow accumulation than usual.