Feb. 16, 2016
Some Good News About Springtime El Niños
by Historical Climatologist Evelyn Browning-Garriss & Climatological Analyst James J. Garriss
Would you like some good news about weather for a change? It’s a bit hard with El Niño, since it creates extreme weather. A strong one, like the current event, creates record breaking weather. First the East had an extraordinarily warm December. Now the news is filled with tales of the harsh storms battering first Texas, then the East and West Coasts. Unless you are mildly amused with the idea of Washington politicians buried in snow as they denounce global warming, it’s been a grim season for weather news. However, if you are a farmer or rancher – spring has some nice news waiting for you.
So here is the good stuff ‒ Texas, the Great Plains or the Midwest can expect fewer tornadoes and hailstorms.
This is actually an old story. Back in April 2015, Nature Geoscience published a paper by John Allen, Michael Tippett and Adam Sobel that examined the influence of El Niño on hail and tornadoes. According to their research, the warm Tropical Pacific waters alter weather patterns as far north as the U.S. In springtime, El Niños reduce the number of tornadoes and hailstorms in key agricultural parts of the U.S. At the same time, cold Tropical Pacific La Niñas increase the number of these events.
In the report’s maps, purple indicates higher storm event frequency, and brown indicates lower storm event frequency. Notice the warm El Niño typically brings Texas and the Great Plains more rain and fewer hailstorms and tornadoes. The Eastern Corn Belt and Ohio Valley also has fewer destructive storms, but usually that is because springtime is much drier.
According to most scientific weather and ocean agencies, the current El Niño should weaken but continue through springtime. The charts also indicate that, unfortunately, the El Niño should be followed in a few short months by its evil twin. UGH!
Remember – El Niño is, by definition, extreme. When storms hit, they tend to be unusually strong – remember the floods of May and the snows of December in Texas. However, if history repeats itself, this springtime’s farmers and ranchers may just have to endure some nice weather! – EBG | JG
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