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El Niño watch issued for fall, winter: What does that mean?

El Nino watch (KTUL)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued an El Niño watch… but what does that even mean?

A watch means that there is a possibility of development, but it has not happened yet. In fact, there is a 50-percent chance of development this fall and a 65-percent chance of development this winter for an El Niño to form.

But what is El Niño?

El Niño is actually the warm phase of ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), which is a coupled climate event. It is considered to be coupled because El Niño is the ocean component, which interacts with the atmospheric component (Southern Oscillation). During El Niño the surface temperature of the water in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are warmer than normal. This causes the easterlies along the equator to switch direction to become westerlies. During a La Niña, the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are cooler than normal, which results in stronger easterlies. These events both have a tremendous amount of impacts across the globe. Some of these impacts during the El Niño phase can be seen in the graphic.

So what does this mean for Green Country? During El Niño the Southern Plains typically sees above normal precipitation and cooler temperatures, especially in the winter. This increases the probability of snow and sleet events. This does not guarantee anything; however, it does mean the likelihood of storms occurring is increased.

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