El Nino expected to strengthen heading into winter

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared the arrival of El Nino.  El Nino is a climate phenomenon that is marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, but its impact extends beyond the Pacific Ocean.

Atmospheric scientist Matt Makens says the Plains and higher Plains will benefit the most this summer.  “Any Plains that are right along the lee side of the Rockies, those will favor from precipitation,” he says. “And we’ve seen that impact already in that heavy precipitation events from the Panhandle of Texas, Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado, up into Montana.”

He tells Brownfield depending on how strong the El Nino is, it could create drier conditions across much of the Corn Belt. “Especially Iowa, Missouri, so we’re going to start to see the drought numbers increasing there,” he says.  “Part of that is losing some precipitation, but also increasing the temperatures.”

No two weather patterns are alike, but Makens says when comparing El Nino models since 1990. “There is a dominating dry pocket from central Nebraska into northeastern Kansas, kind of into Missouri, and kind of into Iowa,” he says. “But there’s a bullseye of drought that hits that region and that’s right on top of the existing drought.”

And for parts of the Eastern Corn Belt?  “Ohio, Kentucky, Southern Indiana, southern Illinois, they kind of leaning in the drier than average direction,” he says.  “And that does appear to be kind of what we’ll see throughout June and again in August. The better chance for water right now appears to be in July.”

Makens says as the El Nino strengthens, dry conditions intensify in the Delta region.  “Another impact is that El Nino can limit the possibility of getting tropical storms or hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast, and that would be further limiting to the moisture for that region,” he says.

NOAA is predicting El Nino conditions to be moderate-to-strong by late fall and continue to strengthen heading into the winter. 

Matt Makens:

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