GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Warming ocean waters in the eastern Pacific near the equator have already led to a shift in weather patterns across the globe.
The phenomenon is known as El Niño, and it typically happens once every few years. The latest forecast from NOAA says there’s an 80% chance El Niño conditions continue through the winter. There are some effects to our weather in the summer. Tom Rickenbach, an associate professor of atmospheric science at ECU explains:
“In the Atlantic, for the stronger El Niño events there’s a good correlation between strong El Niños and weaker or fewer hurricanes in a particular season.”
But the transfer of heat and energy from the western Pacific to the eastern Pacific leads to more pronounced shifts in our weather during the winter.
“With respect to El Niño, the main addition to the climate in the wintertime here in North Carolina is added precipitation” said Rickenbach.
Notice he said precipitation. The link between El Niño and wintertime temperatures here in the Tarheel State is a little unclear.
“Whether it’s a colder winter or a somewhat warmer winter is a little bit outside of El Niño’s influence” said Rickenbach.
During strong El Niño’s in the past, like the winter of ’97-’98, temperatures in North Carolina tended to be cooler than average.
But whether or not we see the arctic blasts many have come to despise is still up in the air. One thing seems certain though this El Niño is on pace to potentially be the strongest we’ve seen in 50 years.