Forecasters say Iowa and the rest of the Midwest will likely have a somewhat milder winter because of the El Nino weather pattern that’s forming. A strong El Nino, characterized by warm water in the central and east-central Pacific Ocean, is expected to start at some point this fall and may extend into next spring.
National Weather Service meteorologist Wes Browning explains what that could mean for us.”The affects of El Nino are always a little bit tricky to forecast, especially in the Midwest,” Browning says. “Typically, we’ll be much more likely to have a warmer-than-normal winter with fewer very cold Arctic outbreaks. Precipitation should be about normal.”
Elsewhere, Browning expects drier-than-normal conditions in the north near the Canadian border and very hazardous weather from southern California to the Gulf coast, areas which have been plagued with rampaging wildfires for weeks.
Browning says Iowa and the Midwest overall are likely to have warmer-than-normal temperatures during the winter ahead. “For the Midwest, the affects usually aren’t that dramatic,” he says. “Normally, when we get a strong El Nino, the odds are that we will have fewer very intense Arctic outbreaks, but as far as precipitation, it doesn’t have much affect at all.”
While fall arrived this week, Browning says the strong warm-weather phase could arrive in a matter of several more weeks, as the El Nino develops.
“Normally, a strong El Nino will last through the winter and on into the early spring before it starts to diminish,” he says. The last time the El Nino was this strong was the winter of 1997-98, which ended up being one of Iowa’s warmer winters on record.