El Nino and What It Means to Us

By: Stephen Bowers Email
By: Stephen Bowers Email

When you hear the term, El Nino, what comes to mind? For many people, it's extreme weather, one way or another, from droughts to floods.

But for us in Mississippi and Alabama, it might actually make the weather better this year.

"The Earth is one thing. What happens some place is going to affect what happens in other places," said John Baxter of the National Weather Service.

In June, we were sweltering with near-100 degree temperatures before summer officially started.

A dry June contributed to a rainfall deficit of just over 8 inches here, and now drought conditions prevail from southwestern Mississippi into Louisiana.

Now, our weather has taken a turn, and most people are liking it. We've seen a little more rain in the past couple of weeks, and we're just ending a 6-day stretch where temperatures didn't even make it to 90 degrees.

Here's the long story. The summer jet stream, which is that ribbon of wind that carries weather systems, is usually blowing in the high levels of the atmosphere over Canada. That isn't where it is; it has taken a dip south and is bringing cool air into our area along with periodic cold fronts that are bringing rain.

Here's the short story. El Nino has taken hold of our global weather patterns.

"The Eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures are warming up dramatically," Baxter said. "That's El Nino growing rapidly."

So with El Nino in place, what will the rest of our summer be like?

"Our night time temperatures are going to be cooler than normal, but our daytime temperatures will hold about normal, which is lower 90's," said Baxter.

And what about the hurricane season?

"If those sea surface temperatures continue to rise as rapidly as they have, we may be looking at a below normal year in the tropics," said Baxter.

That's certainly good news, but remember a slow start doesn't mean a slow season.

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  • by c. Location: meridian on Jul 26, 2009 at 11:35 PM
    JR- The Pacific is hotter than normal this year, which means there's less heat to fuel activity in the Atlantic. Pacific storms don't affect us which is why we don't hear much when they happen, but all the tropical systems this year have been in the Pacific, and almost nothing happening in the Atlantic.
  • by David on Jul 26, 2009 at 08:17 PM
    JR- El Nino tends to increase wind shear in the upper levels (high above) over the Atlantic, making conditions for hurricanes less favorable. Warm waters are great, but not strong winds up there.
  • by JR on Jul 25, 2009 at 12:29 PM
    Question - How does this decrease hurricanes "If those sea surface temperatures continue to rise as rapidly as they have, we may be looking at a below normal year in the tropics," said Baxter
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