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El Nino Back This Year?

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Over the past month, the waters of the Pacific Ocean have started to warm.  This warming is to a point where meteorologists are considering the return of an El Nino Pattern.  This above average area of warm water that can persist for months can have a dramatic effect on the weather in the United States, and for us right here in West Virginia.


Below is a chart of the warming water of the Pacific during the month of May:



Looking at the model projections to the right (1st graphic at top) (each line indicating a specific model), the chances of an El Nino forming seem to go up by the time we get to late Summer, early Fall.  ASO is a three month period, standing for August, September and October.


This concerns me, especially when we look at the effects that an El Nino can have on us right here in West Virginia. 

During an El Nino pattern, the jet stream takes a more southern track due to the warmer Pacific Ocean water.  This track favors southern California east through Texas and into the southeast United States. (2nd graphic at right)


You can see with that locations north of that stay warm, and in some parts dry.

On average, West Virginia sees drier conditions than average, according the Climate Prediction Center.  The graphic to the right (3rd down) takes in account El Nino events recorded from 1914 to 1994 in that months January through March.


This falls in line with our last recorded El Nino of 2009.  For the city of Elkins in 2009 over those three months, January was the wettest month with the following:

AVERAGE MONTHLY: 26.3   TOTAL FOR MONTH:   4.95     DPTR FM NORMAL:  -2.3     DPTR FM NORMAL:    1.52     HIGHEST:    56 ON  5        GRTST 24HR  1.73 ON  6- 7 

Notice that precipitation was actually higher in January of 2009, but then dropped off dramatically in
February and March:

February 2009:
DPTR FM NORMAL: -1.45 HIGHEST: 68 ON 11 GRTST 24HR 0.65 ON 18-19

March 2009:

DPTR FM NORMAL: -1.50 HIGHEST: 76 ON 7 GRTST 24HR 0.61 ON 25-25

So, the trend overall looks dry for an El Nino that occurs in the early months of the year. But if you look at the
numbers for a late Fall El Nino, the numbers are actually higher on average for WV precipitation (4th graphic):

With the El Nino Forecast still at about 50 percent for now, it's something to watch closely. With the
dry winter of 2011-2012 and with the current dry conditions, the hope of a Fall peak on El Nino could
be the best thing for West Virginia.

Stay tuned for updates over the next few months!

Jason Parrish
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