El Nino Update
Sea surface temperatures in the sub tropical Pacific have warmed a little over the past few months and we have now gone into what is best described as a weak El Nino pattern that will likely persist through the end of the year and into January or February. One year ago, we were heading into a moderately strong La Nina.
It is important to remember that each El Nino or La Nina is a bit different, we never see two the same, however, there are certain trends we can expect when we see these Pacific phenomena occur.
Strong El Ninos are associated with heavy rains in California and wet, cool conditions across the southern states. Strong El Ninos also produced warmer and drier than normal conditions across the Northern Plains (especially the Dakotas and the Northern Rockies). However, since this year’s El Nino is likely to stay weak, we are likely not going to experience the extremes that strong El Ninos bring.
Looking back at weak El Ninos in the past we also see some trends that we have high confidence in experiencing this winter season. First, regarding the West Coast and especially California, we should expect some decent rains, however, the excessive rains that sometimes come in a strong El Nino are not as likely. The odds are good, however, California, especially Southern California may receive some beneficial rain. In far Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, the opposite may occur with Washington, Oregon and Northern California possibly having a warmer and drier than normal pattern this winter.
Farther east, in the Northern Rockies and the Northern Plains should not expect an El Nino induced warm and dry winter. Weak El Ninos in the past have produced some cold and snowy winters. Despite media reports of an El Nino, expect a good old fashion cold winter. In the south and southeast it does appear that near to above normal precipitation is possible this winter, including also some pretty cold temperatures at times as weak El Nino patterns have produced colder than normal temperatures. Beef producers from the Northern Plains to the Southern Plains can expect some cold and sometimes snowy/wet weather this winter season.