El Nino Update

February 3, 2016

9pm Wednesday…

Just a quick (or maybe not so quick) update on how we’re doing with El Nino so far this winter.

Average temperatures across the USA in December/January:


Much of the West has been warmer than normal, mainly the northern half;  Cooler than normal across much of the southern half of the West.  That is about what we would expect in a strong El Nino year with warmer than normal temps across the north due to more frequent ridging.  Yes, it’s been another mild winter, but nothing like the warmest ever we saw last year.

What about rain/snow?  I think we all know the answer; it’s been very wet.  150-200% of normal across NW Oregon and SW Washington.  Most areas along the West Coast except far southern California have been well above normal.  The interior is a bit more of a mixed bag.  What sticks out most is that extreme southern California has been relatively “dry”…only running about average.  One theory for the lack of strong systems way down there (as opposed to other strong El Ninos) is that the unusually wet jet stream has been pushed farther north this time around.  That possibly due to a shift in the warm water along the equator OR the warming climate.  Those are just guesses.  It seems to me we have seen more subtropical ridging near the West Coast than we would typically see in an El Nino winter, but I could be wrong…just an observation.  Of course we still have February/March to soak those areas down south, but there is no sign of a significant change in the next 10-15 days.


This is what I wrote back in the fall (and it’s still on the tab on the top of this page)


The drier part didn’t happen but the mild part did.  #2, #3, & #5 have worked out fine.  We never had a big regional flood, but plenty of localized flooding back in December.  We sure didn’t have an arctic blast either, that doesn’t surprise me.

It’s beginning to appear this wet season/winter is going to be remembered for a VERY wild December (through Jan 3rd) and that’s it.  The rest being mild/wet but quite boring.  That’s assuming we don’t have a total change coming up around mid-February of course.  Yesterday Cliff Mass had a great posting about El Nino (my inspiration)…more maps and charts here:


Okay, let’s talk Cascade snow too.  That seems to be working out quite well.  If you recall, EVERY El Nino since 1970 has brought below normal snow to Gov’t Camp (4,000′).  That’s continuing this year.  Govy has seen 109″ so far this season, 149″ is normal through the end of January.  Every month except December has been below average.  If average snow falls in February, March, & April, we’d still end up with 225″ for the season, below the 270″ average.  Here’s the chart for Govy with the SO FAR numbers in yellow..much better than last year!


Higher up, at Mt. Hood Meadows the season total is of course much higher…271″ so far. Below are the number SO FAR in yellow for them compared to Govy.  This winter seems to be a case of warmer storms keeping the best snow up high…that is what we thought might happen.  I don’t have the average numbers by month up at Meadows so I don’t know how they would end up with average snow from here on out.  Again…FAR better than last year!  And we’ve already passed up the bad El Nino years of 91-92 and 04-05.


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen