El Niño: 1997 vs. 2015 Visualized by Region
Every El Niño is different. Its strengths and impacts can vary event-by-event and region-by-region. Using data from the past can help us prepare for what’s to come. Since this El Niño is shaping up to be one of the strongest on record, weather comparisons can be made to the record breaking El Niño of 1997-1998. NOAA put together an analysis of the 1997-1998 winter event to give a better understanding of how this season’s El Niño may impact where you live.
In 1997-1998, El Niño brought above normal temperatures to almost the entire region, which is what this season’s outlook favors. As for precipitation, there was more of a variation. While the Ohio Valley and western Pennsylvania saw near average precipitation, much of the Mid-Atlantic and Carolinas saw above average precipitation. Below normal precipitation is favored this season for the Midwest into Ohio, while above normal amounts are very likely for the Carolinas.
Much of the region’s temperatures were above average in the 1997-1998 winter season, which is what this season’s outlook is also predicting. However, the precipitation outlook favors a drier-than-average season, while the past El Niño produced a variation of precipitation across the region.
The 1997-1998 El Niño was associated with warmer-than-average conditions, especially for the Carolinas and Virginia. It also produced above normal precipitation over the entire region, including record breaking totals in parts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. This is very similar to this season’s outlook of above normal precipitation. This is concerning because the same area already received excessive rainfall amounts this fall.
California is being closely watched this season because of the devastating effects El Niño had in the winter of 1997-1998. During the month of February 1998, California was struck by a series of storms due in part to El Niño. Flooding and storm damage was estimated to cost the state more than $550 million. The outlook for this season follows suit and indicates higher-than-normal precipitation amounts.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist, Monica Cryan