Friday, June 05, 2009
El Nino Might Drench Your Plans in New Mexico
By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
Dig out the galoshes. El Niño is on the way.
A rapid warming in the Pacific Ocean during the past few weeks led climate watchers Thursday to issue their first forecast in three years for an El Niño, a climate pattern that favors wet weather for the Southwestern United States.
The ocean "has really warmed up a lot," said Kelly Redmond of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nev.
El Niño happens when water along the equator warms between South America and Asia. Winds shift, and the resulting pattern tends to bring more fall and winter storms to the southern half of the United States, including New Mexico.
Temperatures are currently above average, according to Thursday's announcement from the federal government's Climate Prediction Center in Maryland, and a full-fledged El Niño is expected to begin some time between now and August.
The strongest effect is in the fall and winter months. The last El Niño, in 2006-07, saw above-average precipitation in New Mexico. The two subsequent years were drier than normal.
Forecasts are still preliminary, according to Redmond, as rapidly changing ocean conditions are taken into account. But a preliminary look suggests odds favoring wetter-than-normal weather in New Mexico through the end of the year.