Is El Nino coming and will it impact Indiana?

Published:
Updated:
Sean Ash

The first part of that question seems to be a resounding yes based on latest data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Centers for Environmental Protection (NCEP).  How it will impact Indiana this upcoming winter is a bit more challenging being this far out.  There’s no denying that the equatorial waters of the Eastern Pacific are warming as the sea surface temperature anomaly map below shows (click on image to animate)….. which is the definition of an El Nino.

sstaanim  CURRENT SST INDEX

In fact climate experts say the developing El Nino could potentially be one of the stronger on modern record if it continues on its current pace.  El Ninos usually develop during summer months and peak in intensity during the winter causing global fluctuations in weather patterns.

CFS NINO FORECAST  HISTORICAL SST ANOMALIES

Long-lead seasonal “modeled” sea surface anomalies suggest this El Nino will rival if not exceed the winters of 1982-83 and 1997-98… the latter which is the strongest El Nino on record.  It should be noted that other global teleconnections can also play a significant role in the eventual outcome of winter too.  Going forward we’ll need to see what phases these various teleconnections will be in across the west/north/east Pacific Ocean and north Atlantic Ocean… as they’re all pieces to the puzzle.

PLUME BASED ENSO FORECAST EL NINO IMPACTS

But if indeed El Nino is the dominant driver, and it is a significantly strong event, then climatologically speaking the odds favor a warmer/drier December through February locally.

The strong El Ninos of 1982-83 & 1997-98 are both in the Top 10 least snowiest winters on record in Indianapolis and produced under 10″ combined snowfall.  1997-98 is the 7th warmest winter on record for the city and 1982-83 is the 12th warmest out of 143 winters on record.

WINTER STATS INDY

Each El Nino is not the same and there is no guarantee it will continue to strengthen.  For now we wait and monitor.