Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

El Niño Seen Strengthening, Unlikely To Bring Drought Relief
The typical wintertime El Niño pattern."

All signs are pointing to a strong El Niño developing by this fall according to an update from the National Weather Service Thursday.

The Weather Service gave the climate phenomenon a high chance to last through the winter of 2015-16. But El Niño -- the warming of the surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean -- is unlikely to provide drought relief to the American West this summer.

Oregon Climate Service Director Philip Mote of Oregon State University said El Niño typically affects our Northwest winter more than summer.

"It does make it more likely the winter will be warmer than average and also in the Northwest that it would be drier than average,” he said.

Mote explained the big seasonal difference in El Niño's influence and effects on this region.

"What El Niño primarily does is shove around the jet stream and the storm track," he said. "Those are so far north in the summer and so badly connected to the tropics that it really doesn't make that much difference for summer climate in the U.S.. The one exception to that is that El Niño events tend to suppress Atlantic hurricanes."

The federal Climate Prediction Center continues to call for warmer than normal temperatures across the Northwest this summer, independent of El Niño. The CPC also forecasts drier than normal conditions for Western Washington and Western Oregon.

"Skiers know that El Niño events tend to be pretty bad ski seasons in the Northwest," Mote said.

Instead, Southern California and the Southwest typically get some of our winter precipitation. But Mote added, ”Probably not enough to break the drought.”

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.