What's Next for the Pacific Northwest?
El Niño Conditions
El Niño conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and are expected to persist through the winter of 2015-16. The magnitude of sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies has stayed consistent over the last few weeks, and the weekly SST departures from normal are near 3.0 degrees Celsius in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The "El Niño Advisory" that was released on March 5 is still in effect, and the El Niño is now exceeding the strength of the strongest El Niño on record, 1997-98, in some measurements.
Model consensus is extremely high that the El Niño will persist through the winter, with chances above 95%, and the current forecast indicates that it will remain a "strong" El Niño event. Chances that the El Niño will persist through the spring have increased to about 85%. The 3-month seasonal forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center are representing the tendency for El Niño winters to be warmer and drier than usual in the Pacific Northwest, particularly after the first of the year.
What does this mean for Washington in the coming months?
The CPC three-class January-February-March (JFM) temperature outlook has increased chances of above normal temperatures for the entire state, with chances exceeding 60% on the three-tiered system. Western WA has even higher chances - exceeding 70% - for above normal temperatures during the period. For JFM precipitation, there are increased chances of below normal precipitation for the entire state, with higher chances of drier than normal conditions in eastern WA.
The outlook for February-March-April (FMA) is very similar: there are increased chances of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the entire state.
Last Updated: 12/17/2015