AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued an “El Niño Watch” in mid-April. Could we be seeing this pattern sooner than anticipated?
After a long three years in the La Niña climate pattern, we have officially entered the ENSO-neutral phase in mid-March. The ENSO alert system has its status as El Niño Watch.
National Weather Service in Amarillo’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joanne Culin described the explained El Niño Watch.
“A watch is very similar to what we would expect with a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch,” said Culin. “It means that conditions are favorable in the ocean and atmosphere for El Niño conditions in the next six months.”
Culin went on to explain that for El Niño conditions, scientists look at the sea surface Pacific Ocean. “If the sea surface temperatures are above normal by a half degree for consecutive months, then we have El Niño conditions,” said Culin.
According to the Climate Prediction Center, ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue through spring and will be followed by a 62% chance for El Niño to take over during the months of May through June of 2023.
With El Niño conditions we could expect an above average amounts of precipitation. The atmosphere response to those warming sea surface temperatures is that the Pacific Jetstream gets slightly amplified and moves down to the southern part of the United States.
“Basically, that means that we get more storm systems that move through our area. In theory, that should increase our rain chances in the summer months. Now this year, it’s a little bit tricky,” said Culin. “Because we also have a another climate pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which occurs in the Pacific Ocean. And that’s counteracting what El Niño was doing.”
Due to this ocurrence, we could see a delay in rainfall amounts until later in the summer.
KAMR Local 4 News Chief Meteorologist John Harris explained what we can expect for severe weather season.
“We have to keep this in mind that if this marries up to our traditional severe weather season, we’re going to have to put up with the bad to get the good. The bad will be the large hail damaging winds the tornado threat to get the beneficial rain,” said Harris.
We can also expect a cooler winter, with El Niño conditions.
“If it takes us into the winter months, then we’re talking about above average snowfall across the area, said Harris. “For the farmers, above average snowfall means that we’re going to see a good moisture supply for the winter wheat crop because it’s a time-release moisture.”
Harris explained for an average year in Amarillo, we see just under 17 inches of rainfall and around 17 inches for snowfall amounts. During an El Niño year in the past decades, we can have years where we surpassed 30 inches for both rainfall and snowfall.
Overall, El Niño can be beneficial for our area.