Winter climate outlook: Likelihood of El Nino now at 60 Percent

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. – The winter climate outlook, released today, no longer shows increased likelihood of above average temperatures in South Dakota for the coming season, said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.

“The outlook, issued by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, describes the temperature and precipitation forecast for December and the remainder of the winter season,” Edwards said.

Edwards explained that one of the most significant indicators of winter season climate can be El Nino or La Nina conditions. “Climatologists look to the ocean waters and atmosphere near the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean for clues of what may occur over North America,” she said.

The most recent forecast continues to indicate El Nino will develop this winter, but is now just 60 percent likely, as compared to about 70 percent just a couple of months ago. “There remains a fair amount of uncertainty, as a result, in the climate outlook for this coming winter, with a 40 percent chance of remaining in neutral conditions, neither El Nino nor La Nina,” she said.

The December forecast and seasonal outlook through February, no longer shows warmer than average temperatures more likely in South Dakota and the northern Plains. “This is a change from the last outlook that was released a month ago. In addition to a weak El Nino event, the current long-range forecast shows the possibility of another cold outbreak affecting our region at the end of November into early December. In combination with existing snow cover, this forecast of a cold outbreak would minimize any chance of above average temperatures for the coming month,” Edwards said. “Even if we reach El Nino conditions they will be weak and likely would have minimal impact on winter conditions here.”

Precipitation outlooks continue to show equal chances of above average, near average, and below average precipitation for the coming three months.

The eastern part of the state was very dry over the fall season, with development of moderate drought in the far northeast. The months of December through February are generally the driest of the year, so the current areas of drought are expected to remain through the next few months.

Even though there is a relatively uncertain climate outlook, there is still a possibility for significant snowfall or severe winter weather. Always be prepared with supplies in your vehicles and homes in the event of being stranded in a vehicle or extended power outage.