El Niño, which means “the child” in Spanish, a reference to “The Christ Child,” became known by South American fishermen as a climate pattern that can affect global weather around Christmas…and this year… it’s back.
“Typically for an El Niño year, you’ll expect wetter conditions and cooler conditions.”
David Munyan, a meteorologist at The National Weather Service, says these conditions will most likely occur this winter across a large area.
“So, we’re talking, the entire South Plains from anywhere from like eastern Mexico all the way into The Southeast United States.”
This year’s El Niño boils down to the temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which are more than five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, highlighted by these darker red shadings. Warmer waters here typically bring moisture in the jet stream, a column of fast-moving air high up in the atmosphere that moves, typically, from west to east.
“The jet stream brings, uh, storm systems. So, storm systems mean precipitation, rainfall, snow, whatever it may be in the wintertime, brings it further south across the southern United States.”
Meteorologist Rick Hluchan compares this year’s El Niño to ones that we’ve seen in the past, which were wetter and cooler in West Texas.
“2015-2016, and 1997-1998, those were years that we saw strong El Niños, very similar to what we’re going through right now and predicting the next few months.”
This El Niño, according to Texas State Climatologist, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, is unique.
“We’ve never seen, uh, an El Niño historically with such a warm North Pacific Ocean, and that affects our weather too because upstream of us, usually, usually it has a weaker impact than El Niño itself, but it, but it’s sort of in the opposite direction.”
Nielsen-Gammon mentions troubling news if not enough precipitation falls.
“Then we’re in serious trouble because a short-term drought turns into a longer-term drought…and…as the drought goes on longer and longer, then, we see bigger and bigger impacts on, on water supplies.”
Impacts, not only on water, but also, on plants.
“It was kind of, depressing, to go to a pumpkin patch and not really have that many pumpkins.”
Elisha Ramirez, a native of Odessa, ventured to a sparse pumpkin patch in Coyanosa back in early October. Later on that month, she witnessed beneficial rain before the end of the growing season.
“I started to notice that our neighbor’s grass in the area was getting greener, versus, before we had all of that rain.”
Rain, in part, from El Nino.
“What we saw in late October, we’re expecting to continue into the winter months with the, uh, above-normal precipitation and cooler temperatures.”
The Climate Prediction Center’s winter weather outlook is similar. Brad Pugh, a meteorologist who authorized the three-month drought outlook in early November, expects more improvement in The Basin drought.
“Chances for above-average precipitation are closer to 40%.”
Ramirez says, “Bring it. We’re, we’re waiting and we’re, ready for it.”