El Niño watch continues, but chances slip

Climate forecasters still expect El Nino to develop this fall or winter, but the chances have fallen to about two in three.

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center in College Park on Thursday upheld the El Niño watch it began in March. Temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean along the equator continue to be warmer than normal, a key El Niño indicator.

However, most of the benchmarks climate scientists use to track and predict El Niño waned somewhat in July. A layer of warm water that went about 100 meters down in June was cut in half in July, with colder-than-average water below it, according to a center update.

Warm water in the eastern Pacific is part of an interconnected set of climate conditions than can lead to droughts in parts of Asia and Australia and flooding in parts of the Americas close to the equator.

A strong El Niño is not expected, and more models are suggesting a weak El Niño rather than a moderate one, according to the update.

What does that mean for Maryland? Moderate El Niño events are associated with the heaviest winter snowfall in Baltimore, and the presence of an El Niño of any strength is generally associated with snowy winters here.

But the climate effects here are not certain -- it's also possible the climate phenomenon has little to no effects in the mid-Atlantic.

When El Niño conditions are present, average snowfall in Baltimore is as much as 10 inches above the 18-20 inches in an average winter, according to the National Weather Service.

Neutral conditions, without an El Niño or La Niña, have endured since March 2012, the longest stretch since a period from 1992-1995.

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