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Dreading Winter Already? El Niño Could Still Save Us

By Kate Shepherd in News on Sep 30, 2015 4:49PM

map of surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean via the NOAA

There's a chill is in the air in Chicago, but we have some potentially good news for Chicagoans—weather forecasters are still betting that this winter won't be as cold as the last. After surviving two recent brutal winters, a so-called polar vortex and way too much snow, El Niño might give us a break.

It's a now virtual certainty that a strong El Niño will affect the Northern Hemisphere this winter and will gradually die off in the spring, according to the El Niño authority, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. An El Niño occurs when the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean next to the equator is unusually high, which it has been for several months. The shift in faraway ocean temperatures is enough to affect weather and climate around the world including Chicago.

Chicago and the rest of the Great Lakes region can expect a warmer and dryer winter based on data from past moderate and strong El Niños, according to the Weather Channel. But it's not a guarantee; no two El Niños are the same, and that weather pattern is not the sole driver of the atmosphere at any time.

The El Niño forecast isn't just good news for Chicago. It's expected bring much needed rain to California. During the 1997-98 El Nino season, California experienced major flooding but still, there's no guarantee for rain.

You can read more about El Nino's potential effect on Chicago and look at some cool graphs from the Tribune.