Title: Warm, Wet Winter Expected with El Niño Persisting, According to NOAA
Federal scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have recently released their first winter outlook, revealing that a warm and wet winter is in store for California and other parts of the United States. This prediction is driven by the persistence of El Niño, a climate pattern responsible for influencing global temperature and precipitation.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center stated that a strong El Niño is expected to remain in place at least through the spring, with the possibility of further strengthening in the coming months. As a result, temperature forecasts for December, January, and February indicate warmer-than-average conditions across the northern parts of the U.S. and much of the West. The regions with the highest chances of experiencing above-normal temperatures include Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and northern New England. Central and Southern California are also likely to see warmer conditions.
In terms of precipitation, the winter outlook favors wetter-than-average conditions in several areas, including most of California, the southern Plains, Texas, and the Southeast. However, widespread drought is expected to persist in much of the central and southern U.S., excluding California. The Central Valley and San Francisco Bay area have the highest odds for above-normal rainfall in the state.
This outlook raises the possibility of another soggy season for California, which endured 31 atmospheric river storms, deadly floods, and record-setting snowfall during the previous winter. Despite the anticipated precipitation, experts caution that it is still too early to determine whether California will experience a repeat of the extreme weather events witnessed earlier this year.
Notably, the warmer and wetter conditions are likely to result in a higher proportion of rainfall rather than snowfall. Climate scientist Julie Kalansky from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography explained that while El Niño patterns provide generalized expectations, there is still significant variability in individual weather events. Last year’s La Niña, for example, brought unexpected moisture to Southern California despite the pattern typically being associated with drier conditions in the region.
The forecasted wet outlook follows the record-breaking heat experienced during the summer months. Global average surface temperatures in June, July, August, and September were the highest ever recorded, leading to heatwaves in Europe, China, and parts of the U.S. September alone broke the record for the highest monthly global temperature anomaly, with a deviation of 2.59 degrees above the 20th-century average.
Climate scientists are surprised by these unusually high temperatures, which are occurring even before the peak of the current El Niño event. Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, describes the data as gobsmackingly bananas. As a result, it is almost certain that 2023 will rank as the hottest year on record, surpassing previous ties between 2016 and 2020.
Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, suggests that 2024 may be even warmer than 2023 due to long-term trends and the anticipated level of El Niño. Schmidt acknowledges that the current situation does not follow a straightforward narrative and that the exact causes of the extreme temperatures are still being investigated. Factors such as changes to shipping regulations affecting aerosols and a dearth of Saharan dust may have contributed to the warming.
Nevertheless, the effects of these rising temperatures are already being felt through extreme rainfall, prolonged droughts, heatwaves, and sea-level rise. They impact infrastructure, coral reefs, fishing, crop yields, and various other sectors, highlighting the need for proactive measures to address climate change.
While this year’s El Niño is not expected to be as severe as the 2015-2016 event, NOAA experts advise the West Coast to prepare for the potential impact of El Niño-driven moisture. State officials in California are already taking steps to assemble flood control resources and provide funds for critical levee repairs.
Despite the relief brought by the winter storms in easing drought conditions last year, California faced numerous billion-dollar climate disasters in 2023, including destructive flooding and intense wildfires. The trend of extreme weather events underscores the urgent need for climate resilience and preparedness efforts.
In conclusion, NOAA’s winter outlook predicts a warm and wet winter due to the persistence of El Niño. While the forecast highlights potential impacts for various regions, it is essential to remember that individual weather events may deviate from generalized patterns. As we continue to witness record-breaking temperatures, it becomes increasingly apparent that climate change demands immediate attention and action.