It’s now February, 2016. With the strongest El Niño on record taking control of our weather, November was a very unusual month.
The entire United States had temperatures above normal, with departures from normal ranging from about a degree in parts of the West to 9 degrees in parts of Minnesota.
Temperatures in December were exceptionally warm, as nearly the entire eastern half of the United States experienced temperatures more than 10 degrees above normal, while the coldest places in the West relative to normal were only 1 degree below.
More normal winter weather has been the rule in January, and we even saw the return of the Polar Vortex into the eastern states, as a couple of very cold blasts reminded us that it is indeed winter.
As we move into February, we expect a much snowier pattern in the East, with cold and warm air clashing to bring the contrasts ideal for a big northeaster. In fact, most of the strongest El Niño winters had at least one major snowstorm in the Northeast, so keep your snow shovels handy, as we may very well see two big storms this February.
Meanwhile, in the West, despite heavy January precipitation, California has still experienced below-normal precipitation in total over the past few years. We expect above-normal precipitation to continue into March and perhaps April, before the normal dry season begins.
With nearly all of the forecast models indicating that the current El Niño will turn into a La Niña by summer as Pacific Ocean temperatures drop compared to normal, next winter will likely turn back to below-normal precipitation, with the drought intensifying again.
As you peruse your seed catalogs, fear not: Overall, it looks like nearly all of the country will have a good spring planting season, with warming temperatures and sufficient rainfall.
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