It's official. El Nino is here.
Pardon us while we blow our party horn.
It's news snow fans and skiers probably do not want to hear -- climate forecasters say El Nino conditions have developed in the Pacific Ocean.
El Nino is a warming of ocean temperatures in the tropical region of the Pacific -- part of a typical 3-5 year cycle where the temperatures drift from warm (El Nino) to normal (neutral) to cold (La Nina) then back again.
We had been in a strong La Nina pattern of the past two years, and have trended back to neutral again this spring. Now it appears the warming phase is taking hold and is expected to remain with us through this winter.
In the Pacific Northwest, El Nino doesn't typically have much affect on our summers, but our winters are another story. El Nino winters are usually associated with warmer and drier than normal conditions.
That correlates to a less-than-normal mountain snowpack and lowland snow is rarer. (OK, so after last winter, there might be some eager for a snow-less winter.)
That said it doesn't mean lowland snow chances are zero, just lower than normal. And there will still be some great days to go skiing, just maybe not as many as last year if El Nino does indeed get going. So don't sell that snowboard just yet.
Right now, long range forecasts have trended in line with El NIno and are calling for a better chance of a drier than normal winter in the Pacific Northwest, although it has equal chance for warmer or cooler than normal. Those forecasts are updated once a month. The next update comes in middle July and might change more based on new El Nino information. So check out those links then.
On the other hand, El Nino usually spells trouble for Southern California.
One of the main effects is to bring the tropical jet stream pointed right there, making for a much wetter-than-normal winter.
There is some hope for those who aren't El Nino fans. For one, a longer cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation perhaps trending toward a cooler phase, it might mitigate some of El Nino's usual effects.
We'll see. Long range forecasting is still quite a challenge so stay tuned!