By Victoria Riggs
Ohio is in the middle of December and are experiencing record temperatures. Last weekend, temperatures peaked in the mid 60s. The 2015 El Niño, or “little boy,” is hitting the country strong and could drastically affect weather patterns across the country going into next year.
El Niño is a set of major weather changes. This term was originally used by fisherman to refer to a warm ocean current that usually appears around Christmas time and could last for several months. During the time of warm water intervals, fish are less abundant, the fisherman spend less time fishing and would often work on repairing equipment or spend more time with their families.
Over the years, the term “El Niño” has come to be reserved for these unusually strong warm water intervals that not only disrupt the normal lives of fisherman but also bring heavy rain.
El Niño is caused by changing wind patterns over the Pacific Ocean that push unusually warm seawater eastward towards America. The warmth of the water shifts the flow of heat and moisture around the planet.
In El Niño conditions, the trade winds are weak and may even blow in the opposite direction from normal. When this happens, warm surface water piles up near the west coast of South America and colder water remains deep in the ocean causing more surface clouds to form over the warmer surface water.
This phenomenon affects weather patterns all over the world. Areas that typically see drought conditions experience extreme amounts of rain. Unusual temperatures changes, like Ohio saw last weekend, are seen throughout the country.
El Niño events occur every three to five years. This year, the weather changes were noticed in March, and is the first event experienced since 2010. Scientists predict this could be one of the strongest seen in decades. It has a 90 percent chance of lasting through the entire winter and an 80 percent chance of carrying into the spring.
If the 2015 El Niño proves to be long lasting, the major weather shifts could bring global changes. The western Gulf Coast of the US will probably see record rainfall. This could mean a lot of extra rain for the southern California region which is typically impacted by droughts.
El Niño may change storm activity, causing stronger hurricanes in the Pacific and quieter hurricanes in the Atlantic. The strongest effects are experienced in the winter season. Countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Brazil, have seen less rain. For the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, winter may be drier than usual, meaning a milder winter season. The temperatures are forecasted to be 40 percent above normal the first three months of 2016. There is also a 40 percent chance there will be less than normal precipitation or snowfall during this time. If El Niño keeps getting stronger as it is expected to, 2016 could be one of the hottest years on record.
If one was looking for a white Christmas this year, unfortunately it was not likely. The latest forecast from the Climate Center are showed Ohio had a 90 percent chance of seeing temperatures above normal on Christmas Day.