Here Comes a Dramatic El Niño Weather Pattern

Dear Reviewer,

Considering the length of time Homo sapiens have ruled Earth, their records of weather phenomenon are extremely short, though some previous weather phenomenon have been captured in places like the ice in Greenland that collected over centuries.

Furthermore, our ability to record and monitor the oceans is a very recent science. Nonetheless, we appear to be witnessing an extreme warming event in the Pacific called El Niño that tends to significantly change weather patterns in the United States and elsewhere every two–seven years.

Scientists now think that the current El Niño will be one of the most severe, if not the worst, on record. These events occur with some regularity, and the three most severe previous El Niños were in 1972–73, 1982–83 and 1997–98.

The current El Niño is reaching its peak now and should dissipate by summer.

Record numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Pacific last summer were thought to be aggravated by this El Niño, but at the same time, the warming of Pacific waters — for reasons that are still a mystery — creates wind shear in the Caribbean and likely caused the demise of several hurricanes there this year.

TIR1

The chart shows sea surface temperature departures from average conditions compared with average temperatures during the same time period 1985–1997. Blue indicates temperatures cooler than average, white shows near-average temperatures and red shows where temperatures were warmer than average.

Despite the storms last summer in the Pacific, El Niño has its most dramatic effect on the United States in winter months. The stronger the El Niño, the greater the impacts, but here is what tends to happen:

  • The Southern United States, from California to the Carolinas, tends to get far more precipitation, and that precipitation tends to move up the East Coast once it has crossed the country, which can result in severe snowstorms in New England
  • The northern United States, especially the Pacific Northwest, the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes, tends to be warmer than usual and drier
  • The Southwest tends to be colder than normal.

In previous strong El Niños, California has received a lot of rain and experienced severe flooding. The state’s residents are looking forward to some replenishment of rainwater during this El Niño, after years of severe draught. Nonetheless, a weak El Niño in 2006–07 left California with an exceptionally dry winter and little snow in the mountains.

El Niño creates most of its weather pattern changes by influencing the jet stream. A significant change in the jet stream in December kept most of the United States warmer than normal and forced cold air to stay in polar regions. That pattern will shift by February and, combined with wetter southern and eastern effects, could result in huge snowstorms from the middle Atlantic states up into New England. Just ask the folks at our Agora Financial headquarters in Baltimore who, along with several states along the east coast, are currently digging out of a record snowfall that hit over the weekend.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek

The Daily Reckoning