The strongest El Niño in 20 years is already having an effect on the weather. Hurricane Patricia is one example.
This storm grew to a Category 5 hurricane in less than 24 hours, fueled by unusually warm Pacific waters. Peak wind speeds were off the scale--over 200 mph! After breaking up over the Mexican mountains, the remnants of the storm caused torrential rain and flooding in Texas and the Gulf Coast. The rain in Chicago and New York and power outages along the East coast are part of the remnants of the hurricane.
What will El Niño bring this winter? According to NOAA, this could mean more rain for the Western United States, which would offer some relief from the ongoing drought and wildfires in California.
Eastern United States-- It probably won’t be as cold as last year in the Northeast, but fierce Nor’easters could be commonplace, bringing heavy snowstorms.
Chicago area --Tom Skilling was asked about the effects of El Niño for Chicago and the midwest---
Is this going to be an El Niño winter? Historically, how does that impact Chicago and the Midwest?
— Art Azen
Yes, this will probably be an El Niño winter, and possibly a strong one. El Niño refers to a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean westward from South America. This has widespread weather consequences, not just in the U.S. but in many places around the world.
For the U.S., El Niño usually brings above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures to the southern states from California across Arizona, New Mexico and the Gulf states. In the north, especially the Midwest, winters tend to be mild, with subnormal precipitation. In nine El Niño winters in Chicago starting with 1950, six have been relatively mild and dry. The other three were slightly cooler than normal.
After two winters of subzero polar vortex and record snow, this is good news for Chicagoans. The snow boots may last one more season. People will still need snow shovels, snow blowers and snow tires, antifreeze, and weather stripping on windows, but maybe the heating bills will be lower.
You can read more about what El Niño is and what it means for Chicago here.
While Chicagoans may get a relief from extreme weather, Europe and the UK may be in for a colder and snowier winter.
According to Think Progress, the existing drought conditions in Southern Africa, Ethiopia and Central America could worsen with below-average rainfall.
For Australia, the Indian Ocean has moderated the effects of El Niño, so far. But heat waves, drought and wildfires could be in the forecast for the summer there.
The effects of El Niño will be felt worldwide over the coming months. This is just a preview of things to come.
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