The United States is preparing for a winter season that is expected to be significantly affected by El Niño, a natural weather phenomenon characterized by warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific. This year’s El Niño is predicted to be the strongest since the record-setting event in 2015-2016. NOAA’s newly released maps provide insights into potential snow accumulation, indicating that the southern regions of the US could see increased snowfall, while the northern areas may experience less.
These maps are not exact forecasts but serve as historical guides to what might occur during El Niño conditions. They reveal that during El Niño winters, the southern US often receives more precipitation due to the southward shift of the jet stream, which brings storms and potentially more snow. Conversely, the northern US typically sees less snowfall.
The impact of El Niño on snowfall is more pronounced during stronger events. For instance, the mid-Atlantic region, high elevations in the Southwest and California, and parts of the South could see more snow than average. However, this is contingent on temperatures being sufficiently low for snow to form. The jet stream’s southern trajectory during El Niño is particularly beneficial for the mountainous regions of the West, where cold and snow are more common.
Despite the general trends, it’s important to remember that individual storms, such as powerful nor’easters, can dramatically alter seasonal snow totals. Therefore, while areas like the Northeast may generally see less snow during a strong El Niño, a single major storm can significantly skew the average.
The maps also highlight regions that have historically seen below-average snowfall during moderate-to-strong El Niño winters, with the Midwest and Northeast standing out. These areas are more likely to experience a snow deficit during such winters, although outliers can occur.
In summary, while El Niño influences general weather patterns, it does not guarantee specific outcomes. The NOAA maps offer a probabilistic glimpse into the upcoming winter, emphasizing the complex interplay between El Niño and regional snowfall.