Jennifer Rukavina is the Chief Meteorologist for WPSD Local 6 in Paducah, KY where climate and weather are always making an impact.

El Niño is Weakening. This is What It Could Mean For the South This Spring

  • Feb 5, 2016

Signs might be pointing to El Niño moving past it's peak intensity for this particular episode while moving toward a neutral phase by spring. Below is an animation that shows the beginning of the 2015-16 El Niño episode and then, toward the very end, the start of a drop in Sea Surface Temperature anomalies. This may very well be a signal of El Niño weakening.

Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific through the end of January

Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific through the end of January.

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This same trend has also been picked up in forecast computer models projecting a neutral phase by late spring and even suggesting a weak La Niña phase by late summer. Below is a look at the latest computer model projections all the way through the start of fall 2016. Each line color represents a different model forecast.

Model forecasts for sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific through fall

Model forecasts for sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific through fall.

Credit:

The closer the line is to "zero" the more neutral the phase is expected. The solid yellow line is the average of all the model forecasts. Most of the models agree on an El Niño phase (positive 0.5+) until the AMJ (April-June) time frame. This would suggest a slowly weakening El Niño through late spring.

Many are wondering what that would mean for our weather here in the Mid-South. El Niño primarily has its greatest influence during the winter months for the Mid-South. We tend to see near average precipitation and warmer than average temperatures.

With a weak El Niño signal taking us into spring, we could see a slight uptick in severe weather events. But we also are likely to start seeing a break from above average temperatures and continued average rainfall. It all really depends on where the jetstream continues to set up for the remainder of winter.

Here is another glimpse at what the weather pattern typically looks like during an El Niño event: