El Nino is a climate phenomenon that occurs when the Pacific Ocean near the equator becomes warmer than usual, affecting the weather patterns around the world. According to the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is a 70% chance of El Nino developing this winter, which could have significant impacts on the US.
What is El Nino and how does it form?
El Nino is the warm phase of a cycle called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which alternates between warm (El Nino) and cold (La Nina) conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino occurs when the trade winds that normally blow from east to west weaken or reverse, allowing warm water to pile up in the eastern Pacific. This changes the atmospheric pressure and circulation, which in turn affects the jet stream and the storm tracks across the globe.
How will El Nino affect the US weather this winter?
The effects of El Nino on the US weather vary depending on the strength and location of the warm water in the Pacific. Generally, El Nino tends to bring wetter and cooler conditions to the southern US, and drier and warmer conditions to the northern US. However, this winter, the forecasters expect a weak to moderate El Nino, which could have more regional and variable impacts.
According to NOAA, some of the possible outcomes of El Nino this winter are:
- Increased chances of above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures across the southern tier of the US, especially in the Southwest and the Gulf Coast.
- Increased chances of below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures across the northern tier of the US, especially in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Plains.
- Increased chances of above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures in Hawaii and Alaska.
- Increased chances of below-normal snowfall in the northern Rockies and the northern Great Lakes.
- Increased chances of above-normal snowfall in the southern Appalachians and the southern Rockies.
How will El Nino affect the US agriculture and economy this winter?
El Nino can have both positive and negative impacts on the US agriculture and economy, depending on the region and the sector. Some of the potential impacts are:
- Increased soil moisture and reduced drought stress for winter crops in the southern US, such as wheat, cotton, and citrus.
- Reduced irrigation demand and water supply stress for farmers and ranchers in the Southwest and the Gulf Coast.
- Increased pest and disease pressure and reduced quality and yield for some crops in the southern US, such as strawberries, tomatoes, and lettuce.
- Reduced heating demand and energy costs for consumers and businesses in the northern US, especially in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Plains.
- Reduced ski and snow-related tourism and recreation revenues in the northern US, especially in the northern Rockies and the northern Great Lakes.
- Increased flood and landslide risks and damages in the southern US, especially in California and the Southwest.
- Increased wildfire risks and damages in the northern US, especially in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Plains.
How can the US prepare for and adapt to El Nino this winter?
El Nino is not a certain or predictable event, but rather a probabilistic and variable one. Therefore, it is important for the US to monitor the evolving conditions and forecasts, and to plan and implement appropriate measures to reduce the risks and enhance the opportunities associated with El Nino. Some of the possible actions are:
- Strengthening the coordination and communication among federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the private sector and the public, to share information and resources, and to respond to emergencies and disasters.
- Increasing the awareness and preparedness of the farmers, ranchers, businesses, and consumers, to adjust their crop choices, irrigation practices, pest management, energy consumption, and insurance coverage, according to the expected weather and market conditions.
- Investing in the infrastructure and technology, such as dams, reservoirs, pipelines, irrigation systems, weather stations, satellites, and models, to improve the water management, weather forecasting, and climate adaptation capabilities.
- Supporting the research and innovation, such as crop breeding, water conservation, renewable energy, and disaster mitigation, to enhance the resilience and sustainability of the agriculture and economy sectors.