Daily Archives: June 8, 2009

The Return of El Niño?: CPC says We Are on “El Niño Watch”

*Sea surface temperatures rising along the equator signal a possible return to El Nino*
*Sea surface temperatures rising along the equator signal a possible return to El Nino*

 Listen up all weather nerds!

Are you a skier? *Cue the horror music* Well I have some…unfortunate, less-than-pleasing news to deliver. Of course, the news I’m about to deliver is not exactly 100% likely yet, but there are definite signs skiers and snow lovers may have a rough winter for the 2009-2010 season if the CPC (Climate Prediction Center) is accurate in their latest assessments.

According to the prediction center, “Conditions are favorable for a transition from ENSO-neutral conditions to El Niño conditions during June-August 2009”. Mind you we went from a La Nina this past winter to a neutral pattern this spring and a possible El Nino by this summer. Typically these transitions don’t happen so fast, but this is a particularly weird weather year anyway so why not break all the rules it can?

It is important to note that the “recent oceanic and atmospheric anomalies are consistent with ENSO-neutral conditions, but also reflect the evolution towards a potential El Nino”. For the full report click here. This is pretty much all the information the CPC wants to give at this time which is smart so as not to set the public expectations too high this winter…or low for that matter. But maybe it’s good to review what El Nino winters typically mean for the Pacific Northwest. I think I gave it away in the 1st paragraph by telling all skiers to run for cover:


The top picture illustrates a TYPICAL El Nino pattern while the bottom illustrates a TYPICAL La Nina pattern. I put the words “typical” in all caps because they don’t always pan out a certain way all the time. For instance, El Ninos are typically warm and dry, but we went through a weak El Nino pattern in the winter of 2006-2007 which featured one heck of a rainstorm/flooding followed by an arctic intrusion in November 2006 and another in January 2007 with a decent snowfall two days before Christmas. That winter was anything but “warm” and “dry”. It was also a good year for the mountains, though the season started a tad late.

And then you can look at this winter, 2008-2009 (which ended up being a La Nina), which started off horrendously in November, got the wheels turning in December and finished beautifully in March. It was quite the variable winter. So you can see why saying this winter will be “warm and dry” or “warm and wet” is too bold of a call to make this early. Heck, it will likely be too early to predict what this winter will be like until March 2010 😉

So I suppose the best thing to do is stay tuned to updates. If the sea surface temperatures rise anymore, we could be looking at an El Nino winter this next winter which could mean many things.

So what do the next 7 days have in store for us? More of the same weather we’ve been having: partly sunny with morning clouds and high temperatures in the low to mid 70s with a few showers mid week, though this weekend looks cloudy, drizzly and cooler.

Have a fantastic evening,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap