El Niño will mean heavy rains for Southeast US: What about us?

- Much of the talk about El Niño focus’ on the predicted Wet Winter/Spring here in Southern California.  But the Southeast part of the United States is already seeing the effects of El Niño.

According to Long Range Meteorologist, a parade of storms will continue to move eastward from the Pacific Ocean during the months of November and December.  Blame it on the tropical moisture continuing to feed into winter storms from the North.  And yes, we can attribute a large part of that weather pattern to El Niño.

The graphic produced by AccuWeather shows just how much the Southern Jet Stream plays a role in directing storms from West to East.

As El Niño continues to strengthen, the Storms in the Southeast are likely to be worse in December and January.  While the greatest risk of flooding include Texas and Louisiana – parts of the Mississippi Valley could see plenty of urban flooding as the storms continue to come one after the other.

So far, El Niño is too blame for higher humidity and above-average temperatures in much of the region. Much of the Southweast will have to wait until December and January for more cool and dry outbreaks.

Again, I like to stress,  much of the Southwest all forecast are subject to change during an El Niño year.  Not all El Niños bring wet winters to Southern California, nor dry winters to the Northwest.  The same holds true for our friends and family in the Southeast. Hedge one’s bets is probably the most appropriate way to look and use these forecast.

Typically the likelihood of a wet winter is increased from 50 percent (a coin toss) to about 65-75 percent likely. In the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, for a typical El Niño the likelihood of a dry winter is increased to 65-75 percent. For the 1997-1998 El Niño, these likelihoods are even higher than usual in the most affected areas, as much as 80 percent for a dry or wet winter, in the two respective areas.

Those of us who lived and worked during the El Niño Storms of 1997-98 remember well those series of storms and heavy rain that seemed to come one after the other.  I’m often asked what do you think the chances are for a wetter than normal year?  O.K. Hal Eisner actually asked me that during our recent El Niño special and asked for a number between 1 and 10 with 10 being the worst.  My answer?  Conditions and percentages are leading towards a wetter than normal winter/spring in Southern California.  Will it be a 10?  Too hard to say.  More than a 5?  Likely.  So while I tend to lean on the conservative side regarding long range forecasting, I’ll split the difference for now. 

Where does that leave our potential rainfall totals for the season?  Here we average about 15 inches per season.  Record amounts during past El Niño Storms were over 30.  So do the math and if my thoughts hold true, we may end up somewhere with 7 to 10 inches above normal rainfall for the season. Of course I leave open the option to change that forecast number down the road as we get into the wetter months.

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