Bracing for a Snowy Winter: El Nino’s Impact on U.S. Weather Patterns

As we approach the winter season, Americans across the country are preparing for the impact of El Nino, a weather phenomenon that significantly influences global weather patterns. This year, El Nino is expected to be the strongest since 2015, which was marked by the warmest U.S. winter on record.

Last winter, New York City experienced its least snowy winter in 150 years, with Central Park receiving less than 3 inches of snowfall. However, this year, the city is projected to face at least 26 inches of snow, a significant increase from last year’s total but still below the average of 29.8 inches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released new maps illustrating how a strong El Nino season will affect weather patterns across the U.S. These maps indicate that during strong El Nino seasons, the northern U.S. tends to be drier, while the southern U.S. typically experiences wetter and snowier conditions.

In addition to these regional variations, NOAA’s data also shows an overall decline in snowfall across the U.S. between 1959 and 2023. Despite this trend, the early snowfall this year has already covered 17.9 percent of the contiguous United States, a stark contrast to the same time last year when snow covered just 3.4 percent of the area.

El Nino, which translates to ‘little boy’ in Spanish, is caused by a shift in the distribution of warm water in the Pacific Ocean around the equator. This shift has a significant impact on weather patterns globally. During stronger El Nino winters, areas like the Midwest and western states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah tend to receive more snow than average.

On the other hand, New England typically sees less snow than normal during intense El Nino seasons. States like New York, Vermont, and parts of Maine are likely to experience less snowfall this winter than the average from 1991-2020.

The impact of El Nino extends beyond just snowfall. The shift in warm water distribution in the Pacific Ocean weakens the winds that usually blow from east to west. This causes warmer water to shift back towards the east, leading to a warmer eastern Pacific. As the ocean temperature is linked to wind currents, this results in weaker winds and a warmer ocean, amplifying the El Nino effect.

This change in air and ocean currents around the equator can create pressure anomalies in the atmosphere, leading to major changes in global weather patterns. As such, the effects of El Nino are far-reaching and can significantly impact our daily lives and activities.

As we brace for the upcoming winter season, it’s crucial to stay informed about these weather patterns and prepare accordingly. Whether it’s pulling out your winter coats or planning for potential travel disruptions, understanding the impact of El Nino can help us navigate the challenges of the season ahead.