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NOAA El Niņo watch signals a possibility of a temperate winter posted on 10/01/2018

Although the fall colors have begun in the Mount Hood region, winter is already predicted to arrive later and to be warmer and drier then the past two years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) winter weather outlook for 2018-19 predicts a 70 percent chance of El Niño conditions developing this winter, resulting in higher-than-average temperatures with lower-than-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. The scientists at NOAA use global weather patterns as well as the development of El Niño or La Niña conditions to make their seasonal forecasts.

“It’s kind of (looks like) what we expect with an El Niño winter, a mild winter,” said David Bright, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland.

El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. The ENSO cycle is a scientific study of the temperature fluctuations between atmospheric and ocean temperatures in the central Pacific.

Of these two phases, La Niña is considered to be the cold phase of the ENSO cycle, and El Niño is considered to be the warmer phase.

Bright stated that tropical water temperatures are currently a degree higher in the central Pacific, which is in the weak to moderate range for El Niño conditions.

In the Pacific Northwest there is a 50 to 55 percent El Niño prediction from September through December, with above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation.

This suggests the possibility of a slow start to winter conditions in the Northwest with drier conditions in the fall.

In mid to late winter, January through March there is a 70 percent El Niño prediction with above-average temperatures predicted and equal-to-average chances of precipitation after the new year.

“Precipitation signals are weaker with El Niño conditions,” Bright said. He added it was hard to predict if the condition would impact the amount of precipitation on the mountain, but that the winter would be milder overall. “Let’s hope we fill the reservoirs and get some snow on the ground for recreation.”

“Both 2016-17 and 2017-18 were La Niña, which tends to be a cooler, wetter winter,” Bright added. “We’re looking at a milder winter.”

As recently as 2017-18 the Northwest received higher levels of precipitation then the initial NOAA forecast.

Current information about the ENSO El Niño Watch can be found online at https://www.climate.gov/enso.

By Benjamin Simpson/MT




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