If you’ve read our summer outlook, you know we’re calling for a pretty hot summer in most regions, with many extended heat waves bringing sustained temperatures in the 90s and even 100s. So far, that’s exactly what we’ve seen in many regions, and we don’t foresee relief any time soon.
Of course, the Farmers’ Almanac isn’t the only game in town when it comes to long-range predictions. The National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and even some television meteorologists have also offered long-range outlooks for the season.
A recent story on the Weather Channel’s website quotes meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford predicting a cool-down for the latter half of summer.
“As we head into summer, it may appear that the prolonged stretch of above-normal temperatures across the U.S. will never end. However, although we are expecting a continuation of the warmth across a majority of the country during the first half of summer, the emerging El Niño would suggest increasing odds of more widespread, below-normal temperatures later in the summer.”
El Niño is a weather phenomenon that affects weather on a global scale, but isn’t particularly well understood. Characterized by unusually high water temperatures off the Pacific coast of South America, El Niños generally occur rather erratically, about once every three to seven years, and typically last between 12 and 18 months.
During El Niño years, typically cold areas, such as New England, the upper Midwest, and much of Canada, see a warmer, drier winter than normal, while Southern states experience colder, wetter conditions than normal.
The last time we experienced an El Niño was in 2009-10. After that, there was a neutral period until mid-2011 when a period of unusually chilly water temperatures, referred to as La Niña, took hold. The two temperature conditions oscillate back and forth, and the result is called the “Southern Oscillation.” This is why scientists use the term El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, to describe the entire phenomenon.
The 2011 La Niña just faded out in April. So, is El Niño back?
Not exactly. Right now we are in a neutral mode (“La Nada”). Of course, we can’t expect it to stay that way for a protracted length of time; the Pacific waters off of South America are slowly warming up and the expectation is that we will transition to El Niño conditions by September. But no one can say just how potent that El Niño will be and how long it will last.
And, in fact, it’s not a lock that we’ll actually see an El Nino. The June 25 NOAA bulletin gives only a 50-50 chance that an El Niño will be in place by the latter part of this year. Those warming waters could suddenly stop warming, or even return to a cooling pattern (though most computer models suggest otherwise).
All we can do is wait and see. In the meantime, be sure to consult our detailed long-range forecast for your region!