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What is an El Nino, or La Nina, and how do they impact our weather?

A look at why meteorologist pay close attention to the El Nino and La Nina.
Credit: WTLV

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The last three years we have been a La Niña pattern, but it looks like that is going to start to change soon with El Niño conditions in the forecast through the end of 2023.  So what does that mean for the average person? 

First of all these patterns known as the ENSO (El Niño / Southern Oscillation) is something tracked over months and years. 

So when someone says the El Niño is coming it’s not a storm or some sort of scary monster. It's a naturally occurring phenomena between the interaction with the ocean and atmospheric currents in the Pacific.

Check here for a look at our local weather.

Here is a quick rundown of what is happening.

Under neutral conditions there is an east to west trade wind flow.  During La Niña conditions this flow is increased creating ocean temps off the coast of the America’s while during La Niña years the flow is reversed which produces above average ocean temperatures off the coast of South America.  

Which has a big influence on our weather.

Credit: NOAA

First during an El Niño the amount of tropical systems are expected to reduce in the Atlantic, this is thanks to wind shear from the added westerly flow with the El Niño. Wind shear is one of the things tropical systems do not like.

Visit here to find out how we use long range models to predict tropical systems. 

Furthermore, something we have seen recently with our La Niña in place drier conditions here in the southeast. But with the El Niño setting up we may not be looking at as many tropical systems, but passing lows with rainfall are more likely during the winter months.

Credit: WTLV

Lastly with our already warming atmosphere we have noticed during El Niño years temperatures globally are often above average as well.  Meaning in the coming years we can expect more record-breaking high temperatures.


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