Historically Strong El Niño’s Impact on Michigan
Here we go again. It's a phrase that only pops its head up every 2 to 7 years. El Niño has again entered the vocabulary of Michiganders and the rest of the country.
Does this mean we should burn our snow shovels and buy more sunblock? Sorry Michigan, that's not how it works.
What Does This Year's El Nino Mean For Michigan's Winter?
If you, like me, have somehow pushed prior knowledge of this weather system out of your consciousness to make room for 'Polar Vortex' and 'Heat Dome', then here's a quick refresher from National Geographic:
El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Trade winds and atmosphere are also impacted by El Niño.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) experts, this will be an El Niño winter that will more than likely impact the severity of Michigan's next several months. As you can see below, the Pacific has been warming up this year:
There are four different intensities to an El Niño event: Weak, Moderate, Strong, and Very Strong. The last Very Strong El Niño event took place in 2015-2016.
This year's El Niño has a 71% chance to be 'strong', meaning that the waters in the Pacific Ocean have warmed more than 1.5 degrees Celcius. As of September, that temperature increase was as high as 1.6 degrees higher.
So, what will those 1.6 degrees mean for us here in Michigan? Though it's not a guarantee, as nothing with the weather ever is, we should get considerably less snow as a result of the 'strong' El Niño.
That's good news for the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Michigan snow haters but, what about those who truly love the Mitten's coldest, longest, and snowiest season? I wouldn't worry. If Michigan weather has proven anything, it's that it is unpredictable.
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