(KMOV.com) - You’ve probably heard that we are in a strong to significant El Nino. What does it mean for the Saint Louis area and the Midwest?
Bottom line, El Nino winters in our area tend to be a little warmer and drier. That means we could see lower than normal snowfall and we might be able to save a little cash on our heating bills. The southern half of the United States, from California to the Carolinas, tends to be wetter than normal. That could help with desperately needed drought-relieving rain. El Nino also cuts down the number of tropical systems in the Atlantic basin.
What is an El Nino cycle? El Nino describes a periodic warming of the ocean waters near the Equator in the central and eastern Pacific. We still don’t know exactly why, but global records indicate that this patch of ocean warms for six to eighteen months every two to seven years.
Currently, ocean temperatures in the Pacific are hitting record highs and still climbing. One scientist has even referred to the current cycle as a “Godzilla El Nino.” Comparisons are already being made to two of the strongest El Nino patterns recorded in the last 60 years, 1982-83 and 1997-98. In those cycles, California had devastating floods and costly landslides from repeated heavy rains.
We only have reliable ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) phase data back to the 1950s, so there is still much we don’t know. We do know that the El Nino cycle has temperature and precipitation impacts all across the globe. It is important to remember that El Nino is not the sole driver of weather in our atmosphere. Be wary of seasonal outlooks. There is still very little skill and accuracy there!
When El Nino was making headlines back in 1997, Saturday Night Live poked a little fun at the still little understood weather phenomenon. Some of you might remember this little snippet from the late Chris Farley.