UW News

October 2, 2018

Video: Washington’s state climatologist predicts this will be an El Niño year

UW News


Early reports suggest that the winter of 2018/2019 will be a weak to moderate El Niño year. For the Pacific Northwest, that probably means less snow in the mountains than average, especially late in the season.

“El Niño is when the tropical Pacific is warmer than normal, right in a thin strip along the equator, and what happens as a result is there’s a shift in these large clusters of thunderstorms, and that has a ripple effect on the atmospheric circulation over much of the globe — including in our neck of the woods,” explained Nick Bond, a University of Washington associate professor of atmospheric sciences who studies links between the ocean and atmosphere.

El Niño winters tend to be warmer than normal, especially after January 1, said Bond, who also serves as the state climatologist for Washington..

For skiers, “El Niños aren’t all bad,” Bond added. “In particular, early on in the winter there can be some good conditions — some healthy snows. One thing we do see is a tendency for less snow pack than usual at the end of an El Niño winter. That means at certain elevations, maybe a little bit more rain versus snow.”

Meteorologists can predict an El Niño or La Niña year with some skill six months or even farther out, he said.