The Climate Prediction Center released an update regarding the current climate pattern. ENSO, or El Niño Southern Oscillation has two phases, the warm phase, El Niño, and the cold phase, La Niña. When the sea-surface temperatures are rising above average in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, it’s a sign that an El Niño is developing. They are predicting a 62 percent chance that an El Niño will develop by late spring or early summer.

This pattern favors drier and warmer than normal conditions across the Northern Plains and Midwest and wetter and cooler than normal conditions across the southern tier of the continental U.S.

Locally, El Niño favors wetter and cooler summertime conditions. When comparing local average temperatures and rainfall during the summer months, El Niño years tend to be a couple of degrees cooler and a couple of inches wetter. The reason behind the wetter and cooler conditions is the enhancement of the Pacific jet stream. The polar jet retreats farther north, which can inhibit arctic air from seeping down into the Plains. However, El Niño effects are more prominent in the winter.

The development of El Niño can impact the development of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin. Typically this climate pattern leads to higher wind shear in the Atlantic which makes it hard for hurricanes to form. It doesn’t mean they can’t but a below-average hurricane season has been predicted because of the forecast El Niño.

It’s important to remember that this is a forecast and it deals with normals. It is still possible to see all different types of weather occur during an El Niño phase. The ENSO cycle, where tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures warm or cool one to three degrees C compared to normal, typically lasts two to seven years.