An experimental forecast has raised concerns about the potential emergence of a powerful El Niño climate pattern this winter, possibly reaching “super” El Niño strength. Such an event could trigger severe weather extremes including deadly fires, droughts, heatwaves, floods, and mudslides, as seen in past occurrences.
This year’s El Niño development is unusual due to its alignment with a global temperature surge, raising the specter of intensified heatwaves and deadly floods, with both extremes experienced recently in Northern California in both 1997-98 and 2015-16.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have acknowledged the pattern’s arrival in June, already noting unusual warming in the Pacific and other waters worldwide. They estimate a 71% chance of a strong El Niño by winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
CFS climate model trends remain bullish on a very wet winter for California and the Southern US, with a classic El Niño pattern.— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) September 19, 2023
However, there is even greater uncertainty than usual regarding what winter may bring for the US.
Water temperatures across almost the entire… pic.twitter.com/ugG3VMPicp
Predicting the exact weather impacts of this El Niño remains challenging. While past El Niño events have been associated with wet weather in California, the state typically sits right on the line of whether it will be wet or dry. For example, in El Nino years the state of Washington typically sees wet weather, while Mexico is dry. For Northern California, sitting right in the middle, El Nino weather impacts could either mean very wet, or very dry conditions. For now, forecasters believe it will be another wet year.
A look back at strong El Nino years of the past 70 years show it’s a 50-50 chance for wet weather, with the wet years being VERY wet:
NOAA predicts that temperatures in the region, ranging from Northern California to the Central Coast, will likely be above normal, with a stronger likelihood of above-normal temperatures in the north. The National Weather Service states that average temperatures from December to February for the Sacramento Executive Airport area range between approximately 47 and 51 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal precipitation for these months typically varies between 3.4 and 3.6 inches.
As the potential for a super El Niño looms, scientists and meteorologists are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the need for ongoing research to understand and predict its impacts accurately. Residents in Northern California and beyond are encouraged to stay informed and prepared for possible extreme weather events associated with this climate pattern.