El Niño conditions strengthened last month, with sea surface temperatures rising across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC).
There is an 80% chance El Niño conditions will continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring and a 60% chance the pattern will linger through summer, according to CPC. But it also points out that “forecasts made during spring tend to be less accurate.” The weather watcher says there is around a 50% chance El Nino will extend into the fall.
In a blog post discussing today’s update, CPC’s Emily Becker notes that the state of the tropical Pacific “has some eerie similarities to that of early 2015.” In 2015, a strong El Niño developed, but Becker cautions that it’s “far too early to tell” if the current weak El Niño will transition to a strong, 2015-style pattern, adding that “climate models are notoriously unreliable when making predictions in March and April.”
In 2015, a wet spring delayed planting in large areas of the Midwest, but better weather later in the year helped the crop to finish strong, with the corn crop generating its second highest national average yield on record.
While spring El Niños typically have less impact than those in the winter and the current system is still weak, some possible impacts include a tendency for and cooler, wetter weather on the Southern Plains and warmer, drier weather for the northern Corn Belt. Such a pattern would be beneficial for spring planting efforts in the Corn Belt where snowfall is thick and temperatures have been unusually cold.
Warmth and dryness may also be an issue in Australia and South America, based on historical El Niño associations.