California’s Water Issues Solved?

There has been much talk over the past several years about the severe drought conditions across California. There was a glimmer of hope due to the strong El Nino during the winter, but the pattern failed to deliver beneficial rainfall to California.
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Current California Drought Monitor (Maroon:Exceptional, Red:Extreme, Orange:Severe): Courtesy of the United States Drought Monitor

However, there’s a new glimmer of hope as of this week. Stanford University announced the aquifers below the surface of California have substantially more freshwater than previously believed. This report shows as much as three times more freshwater is located in these deep aquifers–equivalent to 2,700 cubic kilometers of groundwater.

This is great news because there has been much worry about the growing drought conditions, paired with the large and increasing population of the State, as well as the massive agriculture production of the State. There are some concerns, however, about the findings from Standford.

The quality of the water is questioned, and the water is at a very deep depth. These aquifers are between 1000 to 3000 feet underground. This makes the extraction of the water very pricey. One other concern is the sinking of the ground that could occur due to the extraction of the groundwater; sinkholes could also develop in the vicinity above the aquifer. Even with these questions, this is ‘cool’ news during a hot Summer!

Early 2015-16 Winter Forecast: A Regional Breakdown

2015-16 Winter Forecast

Each July, I release an early winter forecast that is based off of the research that I have done over the previous few months. When reading this forecast, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, it’s July, so things can and likely will change between now and this winter. Also keep in mind that you may not experience the same weather conditions for three months non-stop. It’s not uncommon to experience a month of warmer conditions but the overall winter be cold or vice versa. This previous winter is a great example of that. The weather is constantly changing, and my goal in this early forecast is to give you a look at the big, overall picture. I’ll be getting into the specifics of each individual month in my final winter forecast in November.

I am changing things up a bit this year to accommodate to two groups, those who simply want to know WHAT is going to happen this winter and those who want to know the WHY behind the forecast. In this post, I simply want to provide you with a region-by-region breakdown of what I believe could occur this winter, and while I’ll be getting into some of the research behind the forecast, I’m going to save most of that for next Sunday, July 26th. I have expressed on social media and in my newsletter why this winter is going to be more difficult to nail down than the last two, and I will eventually be expounding upon that. By putting out the forecast in two parts, I will be making more of my research available to those who are interested in breaking it down further.

Firsthand Weather’s Early 2015-16 Winter Forecast:

2015-16 Winter Forecast

Early 2015-16 Winter Forecast Discussion:

An El Niño continues to develop across the central and eastern Pacific and is expected to strengthen through the fall and remain in place through the winter months. An El Niño can have major effects on the overall pattern during the United States winter and often brings cooler and wetter conditions from California to Texas into the Southeast/along parts of the East Coast, while the northern half of the country gets warmer conditions with less precipitation and snow. However, I strongly feel that despite the strength of this El Nino that is already breaking modern records, the future state of the warm pool in the northeast Pacific over the Gulf of Alaska is going to have to be taken into consideration, unless it weakens significantly between now and this winter.

Our previous two winters have been driven by the anomalously warmer waters over the northeast Pacific, which caused ridging to strengthen over the western U.S., bringing with it record warmth and dry weather. In response, this forced a trough to dig into the eastern half of the U.S, bringing with it record cold and snow/ice. If you look at the past two winters, the 2014-15 winter was a near repeat of the 2013-14, except the ridge was farther east last winter, which in return shifted the trough farther east.

Despite the strength of this El Niño, it will likely begin to weaken some through the winter, especially since it began to develop/strengthen much earlier than most other El Niños typically do. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be moderate to strong this winter, but it’s a point that must be noted. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the northeast Pacific warm pool does have the capability to override about any climate signal that may influence the overall pattern in the U.S., even El Nino to an extent. It’s very common to have neutral to warmer waters in the northeastern Pacific and along the West Coast horseshoe around cooler waters just to the west during an El Nino winter, but the extent of the warmth currently across the Pacific basin is unprecedented.

As this El Niño continues to evolve, the northeast Pacific warm pool will likely break down some from the west. While I currently believe that El Niño conditions will have a profound effect on sensible weather across the United States this winter, the current projections for the strength of this El Niño are likely way overdone, although it could eventually get close to or maybe even reach the strength that the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Niños reached.

Again, I’ll get into the detailed meteorology behind this forecast next Sunday and provide you with all of my research. I’m trying to keep things much simpler in this initial release.

A Region-By-Region Breakdown:

The official early winter forecast map is divided into regions and includes a number for each zone. Simply find the number on the map for your area, and go to your region below.

Region 1) This zone is looking at another dry and warmer than average winter, although wetter conditions could creep up farther north along the coast early on in the winter. During El Niño winters, the more active Pacific jet stream typically stays a bit farther to the south, but there are definitely exceptions to that rule.

Much of Idaho into western Montana should remain particularly dry and warmer. Overall snowfall amounts will likely be below average, especially the farther east one goes in this zone.

Region 2) Finally, California and parts of the Southwest may get some beneficial rain this winter, but let me warn you that I am skeptical at this point. This strengthening El Niño is very impressive so far but so is the warmer waters that currently extend northward along the West Coast into the Gulf of Alaska. One may initially suspect that that could enhance the amount of moisture reaching the coast, and while that may be the case this winter, it also must be noted that the extension of the Pacific jet stream farther east is what brings an increased number of systems into California. If the temperature difference between the warmer, equatorial Pacific waters and the cooler waters farther north is less, then this may shift the jet stream farther north or not extend it as far east.

Right now, I feel that much of this area will receive beneficial rains, but there are uncertainties. I’m predicting slightly above average temperatures for this zone, despite an increased chance of precipitation. As I continue to watch everything over these next few months, I’ll adjust temperatures as needed in my final winter forecast.

Region 3) This zone should get average to slightly above average precipitation with temperatures that will probably be a little bit above average. Even with above average temperatures, snow should be at or above average by the end of the winter, particularly in the mountainous regions.

The area that could end up with closer to average temperatures will be into parts of New Mexico and Arizona, although that is a bit of a wildcard at this point.

Region 4) This zone should end up with well-above temperatures and less snow overall. Let me remind you that this forecast covers a 3-month period, so that does not mean that there won’t be any Arctic intrusions at all in this region. During many El Niño years, the northern jet stream usually stays north of this region, keeping most of the truly Arctic air farther north. Even though I do expect the overall pattern not be nearly as zonal (a west to east flow) as some of the stronger El Niño years in the past, it seems that most of the Arctic intrusions will occur east of this zone.

Some bigger Arctic intrusions could occur later in the winter, especially closer to Great Lakes region. The bigger cities such as Chicago and the Twin Cities should end up with lower than average snowfall.

Region 5) Somebody always ends up in what I refer to as the “in-between” zone, and this year, that region happens to extend from parts of the Plains/Mississippi Valley and into the Great Lakes. Generally, I expect most of this region to have above average temperatures earlier in the winter, but later in the winter could be a different story.

The part of this zone that will likely have the highest chance of getting average to above average snowfall will be across parts of Kansas and Missouri. The rest of this zone may end up with drier than average conditions throughout much of the winter; therefore snowfall could be below average.

Region 6) If you’re familiar at all with what a lot of strong El Niño winters usually look like, you may be wondering why I have this entire region as being cold with typical snow. As I explained above, the very warm waters in the northeast Pacific have not dissipated, and even though we have plenty of time for it to break down from the west, it still could be there in some form by this winter. These warmer waters do have the ability to affect the overall long-wave pattern in the U.S., and as we saw the last two winters, it can create a wavy and amplified jet stream, pushing Arctic air south into this region.

While it’s difficult to say just how cold this region will be at this point, I do believe that several intrusions of Arctic air are possible. I don’t expect snowfall to be nearly as high as last year in places like Boston but decent snowfall totals should occur for many of these regions. Conditions should be drier overall in the Ohio Valley, but the amount of snowfall that the area gets this winter is still a bit of a wildcard. I should have a lot more information in the fall for this region as there are still some fairly sizable uncertainties.

Region 7) This is the zone that you’re going to want to be under if you prefer a variety of wintry weather, however there are some uncertainties that I’ll need to explain. During the majority of most moderate to strong El Niños, the southern jet stream (the sub-tropical jet) becomes much more active and transports more moisture into Texas and eastward into the Southeast/along parts of the East Coast. The big wildcard usually becomes how much cold, Arctic air will be available.

With that said, some of the most remarkable winter events in this zone have occurred when the temperatures overall for the entire winter were just marginal. I’m really leaning towards this being a colder than average winter across much of this zone with those chances increasing the farther east one is. El Niños usually bring about cooler than average conditions across this area during the winter because of more precipitation and clouds, but I do believe some major intrusions of Arctic air could push into this area, especially later in the winter. I will further expound upon my reasoning next Sunday, but the overview discussion at the beginning of this article give you a basic idea of my reasoning.

The ice storm threat will be greater for the southern regions in this zone including places like Atlanta and Birmingham, and almost all of these areas have a decent shot at getting above average snowfall. In fact, some locations in this zone (not all) could end up with well above average snowfall. As always, not everyone in this zone will get the snow they want, but the chances are once again higher than average for a more active winter.

Region 8) This zone has a pretty good shot at getting above average precipitation due to an active and more southern storm track (jet stream) that will likely set up, bringing storm systems and moisture into the region. Due to this likely increase in storminess and cloud-cover, temperatures will probably be below average overall.

The big question becomes whether or not temperatures will be sufficiently cold enough for some of the more northern areas of this zone to get a shot at a winter storm. The chances could be higher for that to occur this winter but far from guaranteed. The 2009-10 El Nino winter was pretty great for some of these areas due to the high amount of blocking that built over the Arctic and Greenland, which displaced Arctic air into the Deep South. Some of you saw snow for the first time in years as a result!

Florida and areas along the Gulf Coast beach could have a heightened threat of severe weather throughout the winter, and the highest impact zones will depend on the dominant storm track this winter.

Concluding Thoughts:

I do expect the El Niño to continue to strengthen through the fall, although not as much as what the forecast models are currently projecting. I also believe that the warmer waters in the northeast Pacific and along the West Coast need to continue to be monitored closely, as that could have a major influence on the pattern this winter across the U.S. For those that are interested in further study, I encourage you to look at the El Niño winters that actually had cooler waters in the northeast Pacific and along the West Coast (a -PDO), which is the exact opposite of what is likely going to be in place this upcoming winter. A cold PDO during an El Nino winter is actually quite rare, but it shows you how the waters in that region can have a big influence on the U.S. pattern, despite an El Nino being in place. I have always found it helpful to study the opposite scenario in order to make good comparisons.

December could end up being warmer for most of the United States with a flip to a much colder pattern in January and February in the eastern U.S. Even with a warmer December, that doesn’t mean an inactive pattern with very little snow or ice for that month, but the most notable part of winter will likely be in January and February. Of course, that’s subject to change.

I didn’t really discuss what’s currently going on in the Atlantic and how that could influence this upcoming winter, but I will next Sunday. Predicting if there will be blocking over Greenland (a -NAO) is difficult, if not impossible, this far in advance. I will try to show you what could happen though.

It has been more difficult this year to find previous winters that are similar to what could occur this upcoming winter. I have particularly been studying the 1957-58, 1986-87, and 2002-03 winters, but be careful not to just combine all of those together and expect that to be what happens next winter. I usually talk about a lot of the research that I do in my newsletter, which I encourage you to sign up for by clicking here. I also update Facebook and Twitter daily.

Thanks for taking the time to read this early winter forecast, and don’t forget to check out the very in-depth discussion on this winter that will be coming out next Sunday (July 26th). It will be a pretty heavy read, but nothing that you can’t handle! See you there.

El Niño: What Does All Of This Mean?

february 2016 winter forecast

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard all the talk about the developing El Niño, and how much of an impact it will have around the globe. It most certainly will be a big player this year, but this El Niño is weird. When I say weird, I mean that the Pacific is behaving in a way that doesn’t necessarily reflect what has happened in the past, at least since records have been kept. Before I elaborate, let me briefly explain what El Niño is for those of you who may be curious.

What is El Niño?

Various weather agencies have a different set of criteria that must be met before they will officially declare an El Niño or La Niña. For NOAA to declare an El Niño, the 3-month sea surface temperature average has to be 0.5 °C above average or greater for 5 consecutive months in the Niño 3.4 region. I posted a map below to show you exactly where the Niño 3.4 region is located, instead of trying to describe it. They also like to see that the atmosphere is responding to the warmer temperatures over this region, which further reinforces El Niño.

nino region 3.4

Winds typically blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific, but when the waters warm up across the central and eastern Pacific, this can cause these winds to significantly slow down or even reverse in some places. This acts to further enhance and strengthen El Niño. The El Niño phenomenon is A LOT more complicated than what I just described, but on Firsthand Weather, I won’t go into anymore detail than that.

How Is This El Niño Any Different Than The Others?

Weak El Niño conditions were in place this past winter, which have continued to strengthen through the spring. While rare, 2-year El Niño events have occurred in the past, but what could make this El Niño event almost unprecedented would be if the El Niño conditions were to steadily strengthen from now until the fall/winter (considering that weak El Niño conditions were present this past winter also). Given that almost all forecast models strengthen El Niño and that water temperatures are well above average fairly deep below the surface across the equatorial Pacific, I have no reason to believe that we won’t be into a full-blown moderate (maybe strong) El Niño by this fall.

el nino forecast

Analogs and Implications for the 2015-16 Winter:

This is NOT a winter forecast for 2015-16. I start doing a lot of my research for the upcoming winter in the spring and summer when I’m putting together my forecasts for spring/summer. Keep in mind that my research is different than me putting out an official seasonal forecast. For example, my 2015 summer forecast is coming out this Sunday at 2 pm ET, and that is what I consider an official Firsthand Weather forecast.

For those of you wanting to do further research on this upcoming winter, I’m going to share with you a few time periods/previous winters to study. The periods that El Niño conditions persisted non-stop through two winters were 1968-70 and 1986-88. Keep in mind that the first winter in both of these periods had a much stronger El Niño than what was in place this past winter. Also, the El Niño died off towards the end of the second winter in both periods. Hopefully this makes sense.

One of my analogs that I am strongly taking into account is the 1957-58 period (this could very well change in the future), which could favor what next winter will look like. El Niño conditions developed early in 1957 and strengthened throughout the year. A fairly strong warm-pool in the northeastern Pacific and warmer waters along the West Coast was also prevalent by the 1957-58 winter. The sea surface temperatures were highest above average in the central equatorial Pacific but were above average across all Nino regions.

As you can see from the images I shared below, the core of the cold overall ended up being from the southern U.S. up through the East Coast during the 1957-58 winter. Even though these regions have been cold the past two winters, they haven’t gotten the brunt of the cold like northern parts of the U.S have. Florida was an area that was hit particularly hard in 1958 with a historic freeze that cost millions. On the other hand, from the Northern Plains westward and even in the northern half of the Northeast ended up having above average temperatures that winter, which wouldn’t surprise me either for this upcoming winter.

2015-16 winter forecast

Although the more persistent cold may have been confined to southern and eastern parts of the U.S. through the 3-month period, February 1958 was brutal for a large area of the U.S. This looks very similar to what happened this past winter with a warm December and a very cold February. Again, the biggest difference is that the core of the below average temperatures are across the South and not the Northeast. This wouldn’t be particularly shocking with a moderate to strong El Nino in place this winter.

february 2016 winter forecast

sea surface temps winter 1957-58

Again, this is just ONE winter that is starting to look similar to what could come this winter, but I have only considered a couple factors. There is much more to consider when putting together a winter forecast. Anyway, I hope some of you can have fun with this and do some of your own research before I come out with my preliminary winter forecast in July. Another recent El Niño winter to check out is 2009-10, but it is not as strong of an analog at this point.

Don’t forget!! My 2015 summer forecast will be coming out this Sunday, May 17th at 2 pm! Don’t miss it!

El Nino Is Now Official: So What?

el nino

Before I get into this article, let me start out by saying that El Nino/La Nina are two very important events that can have major impacts around the globe. Entire economies can be positively or negatively affected by the emergence of an El Nino or La Nina event, which is why it’s important to predict that one is going to occur many months in advance. About this time last year, there was so much talk about how we were going into a Super El Nino, and that it was going to be just as bad as the 1997/98 El Nino event. I never really saw that happening, but I definitely understand why many did. The atmosphere just never responded early enough to what was going on across the equatorial Pacific, and if it had, I would have been wrong.

El Nino DID Affect This Winter:

NOAA announced the other day that El Nino had officially arrived. After that announcement, the media went crazy with the news, which had many people asking how El Nino is going to affect them. I’m glad you asked because I want to try to answer your questions. To answer the first question, many of you have already felt the influences of El Nino this winter.

When I put together my winter forecast (both in July and November), I took into account that a weak to weakly moderate El Nino Modoki would be in place during the winter months. In my early July winter forecast, I went against all of the super El Nino predictions, which would have changed the entire winter forecast had those predictions verified. Instead, we had the weaker El Nino that I expected.

A very active sub-tropical jet did set up across the southern U.S. particularly in February, which was likely partly driven by this weaker El Nino. Because of this El Nino being on the weaker side, the southern half of California didn’t benefit as much as I originally thought, but the effects were felt in many other locations. It’s important to realize that El Nino was not the main driver of this winter but was one component of many parts.

NOAA typically puts out pretty good short-term forecasts, but their seasonal forecasts are mediocre at best. They simply weigh too heavily on El Nino and La Nina and ignore everything else. They did the exact same thing this winter and had most of the northern U.S. with above average temperatures and the southern U.S. with below average temperatures. That is a carbon-copy of what a traditional moderate to strong El Nino looks like, but you just can’t do that and expect to have an accurate winter forecast. You just ignore too many other factors. Even with a moderate El Nino, you have to consider other factors.

This El Nino did not just come about one day like a light switch being flipped. I’ve noticed that many are saying that if this El Nino had come a few months earlier, then the winter outcome could have been different, especially for places like California. I disagree. Had it been stronger, then the outcome would have been different, but I never expected a stronger El Nino anyway. Those waters across the central Pacific have been warm since last year, and NOAA needed enough evidence that the atmosphere was responding to these warmer sea surface temperatures to make it official. They are the ones that flipped the switch in March.

I don’t blame the meteorologists at NOAA for the misinformation because they have years of experience and know what they’re doing. I blame the media. They needed something to talk about, and unfortunately, the writers of most of the articles and reports that were put out on this subject were off. That’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

What Is El Nino (Read this carefully b/c it may take a few minutes to fully understand)?

I wrote an article last year, where I went into detail explaining what El Nino is. In the future, I plan to either rewrite that article or add updated information to the old one.

Winds called trade winds blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific. During an average year, the sea surface temperatures are cooler across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and warmer over the western parts. The warmer/cooler sea surface temperatures warm/cool the air above it. Warm and moist air is less dense, so it has the tendency to rise. As you can imagine, when the air molecules are being pulled upward, areas of low pressure develop at the surface. Air from other regions try to replace the air that’s been pulled up, so that’s how you get wind.

Because the waters are typically cooler over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and warmer along the western equatorial Pacific, high pressure and less stormy conditions develop particularly over the eastern equatorial Pacific and low pressure over the western equatorial Pacific. Winds blow from high to low pressure for the reason I explained above, so that’s why your winds are typically east to west over this region.

These winds then pile up the warmer water over the western equatorial Pacific and upwell cooler waters from the eastern Pacific, which in turn, creates an even stronger temperature/pressure gradient. This makes the winds even stronger. As you can tell, it takes both the atmosphere and the ocean to make this entire process work. It’s a feedback loop.

Typical year vs. El Nino year (Graphic from Norman Snell):

el nino

When El Nino begins to develop, something changes! Without getting into much detail, something has to occur that begins to break down this entire process. Around this time last year, a wave developed that started to move the warm western Pacific waters eastward. Now, this is oversimplifying things a bit, but you get the idea. Once these warmer waters started moving east, it started to warm those cooler waters farther east. This then started to weaken the trade winds because guess what? The temperature/pressure gradient was weaker. The only problem last year was that the atmosphere just didn’t respond to these warmer waters being transported east. The trade winds never weakened enough for long enough to keep this feedback loop going. Outside influences may have been the cause, but this kept the El Nino on the weaker side.

During stronger El Nino years, the trade winds will actually reverse course and flow from west to east. Why is that? Well hopefully you know the answer to that. Warmer waters have now been pulled farther east and cooler waters are now farther west. Now the higher pressure is west and the lower pressure east. Remember, wind goes from areas of high to low pressure because it’s trying to replace that air.

The current El Nino is a weak El Nino Modoki. That is when above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial central Pacific are sandwiched between cooler waters to the west and east. I’ve talked about all of that on this site before.

If you didn’t understand all of that, it’s fine. This is just for your information and for those of you that want to learn something new. This is a very simplified explanation of a very complex process.

Is El Nino Still Coming By The 2014-15 Winter?

El Nino has continued to be the big talk among meteorologists for most of this year, and just when El Nino seems to be making an appearance, it backs off just enough to keep us below the El Nino classification. To keep things simple, El Nino is simply the warming of waters across the central and eastern Pacific. More specifically, sea surface temperatures have to be at least 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) above average over the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean for a given period of time for an El Nino to be considered in effect. This can have profound effects on the weather around the globe, particularly during the winter months.

What one must realize is that when the El Nino or La Nina events stay weak, there are other variables that can strongly drive the pattern that shapes what the winter will be like. In other words, you can’t just average out all of the weak to weakly moderate El Nino winters and expect to get an accurate forecast for this upcoming winter. One must take into account the placement of warmer waters across the equatorial Pacific and the strength of this event along with other variables that I have discussed in previous articles.

We can take the cold winter of 2013-14 as an example. Water temperatures stayed slightly below average across the central and eastern Pacific this past winter, but the northeastern Pacific warm pool influenced temperatures much more significantly than most meteorologists and forecasters anticipated. My point is that it’s important not to get too hung up this winter on whether or not we’re technically in an El Nino, especially since it’ll likely remain on the weaker side. When I put out my early winter forecast in July, I accounted for a weak to weakly moderate El Nino Modoki, and I still hold to those predictions. In other words, my forecast hasn’t changed much since my original forecast was put out in July.

All regions across the central and eastern Pacific are experiencing above average sea surface temps.

All regions across the central and eastern Pacific are experiencing above average sea surface temps.

Waters across the central and eastern Pacific have consistently remained above average since late spring with the exception of the central Pacific (Nino 3.4 region) very briefly experiencing below average water temps. The atmosphere has had a difficult time responding to these warmer waters this year and hasn’t really induced further warming. It’s still been a struggle even as we get closer to October, but most models still are holding onto the prediction that we will be going into a weak El Nino by this winter. It could even strengthen throughout this winter.

Most models are predicting a weak El Nino by this winter.

Most models are predicting a weak El Nino by this winter.

I will continue to monitor everything closely through the month of October and will be putting out my final 2014-15 winter forecast in late October or early November. I’ll have a specific release date in a couple of weeks. Please follow Firsthand Weather on Facebook to get daily updates on the latest information regarding El Nino and this upcoming winter.

Firsthand Weather's Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

El Niño and Its Possible Effects On This Upcoming Winter

El Niño Forecast

There continues to be a lot of speculation about the El Niño that will likely develop later this year. As most of you read earlier this year, the majority of meteorologists/climatologists were leaning towards a stronger El Niño developing by this winter, which would have had major influences on the weather around the globe particularly this upcoming winter. Most of them had valid reasons for these predictions, and while most models agreed with these predictions earlier this year, I did point out a couple of reasons why I didn’t think we would go into a super El Niño. Please understand that predicting when an El Niño will develop and how strong it will be can be extremely difficult. 

The reason I care so much about El Niño is because it can influence the weather in a major way, particularly during the winter months. Strength and placement of the warmer waters across the equatorial Pacific play a big role on how much El Niño influences the temperatures and precipitation across the United States. 

For most of this year, the atmosphere has not reacted in a way that would favor the development of an El Niño, although that has begun to change in recent weeks. The atmosphere MUST react to the warmer waters across the equatorial Pacific to further reinforce the buildup of warmer waters across the central and eastern Pacific. Without the help of the atmosphere pushing El Niño along, it simply cannot develop, which is why cooler waters started to re-emerge back over the region that dramatically warmed up earlier this year. This entire process is a ocean-atmosphere system, and when the warmer waters across the equatorial Pacific drive the atmosphere to induce even additional warming of these waters, this is what is referred to as a positive feedback, which is what you need. 

SOI Index

When the SOI index is more negative, this typically means that an El Niño is developing or has already developed

Now that the atmosphere is starting to react to a developing El Niño, the warmer waters will likely begin to emerge to the surface, so it’ll be interesting to watch what takes place over these next several weeks. Typically, winds blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific, which is referred to as trade winds, but this completely reverses during El Niño events. If you look at the graphic below, you can see that above-average temperatures are beginning to re-develop and re-surface. The top part of the graphic is the ocean surface and the further you go down on the graphic, the deeper the ocean. Notice the darker oranges, and how they’re starting to surface back to the top.

El Nino sea surface temperatures

From everything that I’m seeing, I still believe that we are going to be dealing with an El Niño Modoki event, meaning the warmer waters will be more focused across the central Pacific instead of the eastern Pacific. If you look at previous years that had similar setups, the temperatures during the winter were warmer out West particularly in the Northwest, while it was really cold out East. As I mentioned in my winter forecast, there are other factors that could influence this winter, just because this El Niño will likely stay weak to moderate. If this El Niño were to be stronger than I am anticipating, then I’d have to make some changes to my winter forecast, but I find that to be unlikely at this point. 

El Niño Forecast

Several climate models continue to indicate a developing El Niño.

An El Niño Modoki event would most likely bring wetter conditions to southern California and across most of the Southern Plains and Southeast. Due to the colder-than-average temperatures that I’m expecting further east this winter, this would bring above-average snowfall for many regions across the Southern Plains and Southeast, even in areas that may not see snow too often. The Mid-Atlantic and most of the Northeast will also be very cold with the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast being impacted by several larger storms this winter. Please read my 2014-15 winter forecast to see what I’m expecting for your area this winter. 

Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s Preliminary 2014-15 Winter Forecast

I’m still going to continue to keep a watch on everything. Depending on how everything plays out over the next couple of months will determine how our fall will end up being, and then of course, my main focus will shift to winter. Always remember that things can change, meaning my forecasts are subject-to-change. 

Please continue to follow Firsthand Weather on Facebook, and be sure to like the page if you haven’t already. I always try to keep the Facebook page updated as much as possible.