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How will El Nino affect California’s winter snowfall

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How will El Nino affect California's winter snowfall
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How will El Nino affect California’s winter snowfall: The weather usually changes in a certain way during El Nino. This is because most of the time, they reach their strongest in late fall or winter, when they have the most impact on weather patterns.

During the classic El Nino winter, it tends to rain more than usual in the southern U.S., including some parts of California. This is because the jet stream moves farther south and is stronger.

How will El Nino affect California’s winter snowfall

There is a classic weather pattern during El Nino

  • We looked at changes in the amount of rain that fell in the six months from November to April during 26 El Nino events that happened since 1950. The main part of California’s wet season lasts for six months.
  • As shown by the green or blue shadings on the map below, most of California usually gets more rain from November to April during El Nino.

California’s typical El Nino precipitation pattern.

  • NOAA’s October report says there is a 75–85% chance that El Nino will become strong between November and January.
  • That is important because a stronger El Nino could have a bigger effect on the weather pattern if all other things stay the same.
  • In the time period from November to April, there were eight strong El Ninos, which are shown on the map below. You can see that when El Ninos are strong, most of California gets even more rain.

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During strong El Ninos, California experiences more rainfall.

  • During the last El Nino, these things took place: Since fall 2018 through early summer 2019, we haven’t had an El Nino.
  • A weak El Nino happened that winter and spring in California, as you can see from the map below.

What happened during the last El Nino?

To begin, each El Nino is different: The usual effects we talked about above aren’t always sure to happen, even when El Nino is strong. Again, that’s because El Nino only controls one side of the stormy weather.

  • The maps above show averages of the amount of rain that fell during several El Ninos. But the amount of rain that fell during each of the eight strong El Ninos tells a different story.
  • Since 1895, the graph below shows how much rain fell in California from November to April. Strong El Ninos are shown by the red dots.
  • The state had some of its wettest winters and springs ever during the strong El Ninos in 1982–1983 and 1997–1998.
  • Two other strong El Ninos, on the other hand, were only slightly wetter, and the other three were drier than usual.
  • One of them, in 2015–16, was just as strong as the record-setting El Nino. Northern California got a lot of rain that winter, but Southern California got less rain.

First, no two El Ninos are identical.

  • For second, El Nino isn’t the only thing that affects weather patterns. Just like most bull or bear markets can’t be blamed on a single factor in the economy, El Nino isn’t the only thing that changes weather patterns.
  • Day-to-day changes in the weather, such as blocking patterns, climate change forcing, and other factors, all work together with El Nino to determine the weather over a few months.

A great example is what happened this winter and spring.

  • Heavy snow and rain hit California and the Southwest U.S. hard. But instead of El Nino, a very rare triple-dip La Nina was about to end.
  • The main point is that El Nino has made it more likely that California will have a wetter winter and spring in 2023–2024.
  • But, as the past has shown, it’s not a given that these places will have another wet winter and spring.
  • We saw this winter and spring that an El Nino doesn’t have to happen for these places to have a historically wet winter and spring.

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