El Nino Uncertainty

El Nino Uncertainty

What do warmer than average sea surface temperatures off the coast of South America have anything to do with the weather in Wichita Falls?

If a strong enough El Nino climate pattern develops, this can mean a boost in precipitation and a drop in temperatures during the fall and winter months for Texoma.

"During El Nino, the Southern Tier of the United States is much more likely to get increased precipitation," explains Dr. Gerry Bell, a meteorologist at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, "because the jet stream that controls the storminess is shifted south." 

Recently, the formation of an El Nino- something forecasters were almost certain of a few months ago- came into question.

"We thought, 'oh yeah, it looks like it's locking in, this is the precursor set up in both the ocean and the atmosphere,' it turned out that it wasn't," Bell said.

A cool down of waters beneath the ocean's surface in the Pacific Ocean was one of the main factors in the decline. However, in three other cases, an El Nino has still developed after a cool down was observed.  

Bell still expects if an El Nino does form later this year, that it will be weak or moderate in strength. And the strength of an El Nino can be a major player in whether or not Texoma reaps the benefits of enhanced wintertime precipitation.

"A stronger El Nino would more likely shift [the Pacific Jet] to the south and more likely bring more rainfall to places like Texas, New Mexico, the Southern Plains that have been in such severe drought. Bell explained.

Dave Caulfield, Newschannel 6