Snow, sleet, hail, hurricanes, tornadoes, torrential rain, flooding, freezing temperatures–this is what El Niño weather patterns bring.
Current forecasts have been warning the public of weather anomalies to expect this season. Warnings of snowstorms and hurricanes have been affiliated with the term “El Niño”, but what exactly does that mean?
El Niño is part of an irregular weather cycle that occurs every two to seven years and originates in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. When surface ocean water inexplicably warms up, the air above the ocean consequently warms up as well. This leads to massive changes in atmospheric circulation, which brings extreme weather patterns to the East Coast.
Earlier this winter, specific regions of the Pacific Ocean warmed to above-average temperatures, making this year’s El Niño among the strongest ever recorded; in fact, this El Niño is the strongest we’ve faced in the past 18 years.
The last El Niño of this magnitude was seen in 1998, which brought historically destructive weather to Georgia. In Dunwoody, El Niño unleashed a devastating tornado that brought winds of 150 miles per hour and stretched over half a mile wide. The tornado demolished hundreds of homes and buildings, including Georgia Perimeter College’s Dunwoody campus.
Many believe that this year’s unusually warm December could be attributed to the effects of El Niño. But that was just the beginning.
Forecasts indicate that El Niño will plague us with freezing cold temperatures from late January to late March. Paired with increased chances of precipitation from subtropical jet streams, Georgia is likely to see its fair share of snow this season.
In fact, El Niño has already begun to unleash its wrath on us. This Friday, January 22, studentswere released early from school at 1:30pm, “due to the winter weather advisory in effect…following a state of emergency announcement issued by Governor Nathan Deal.”
Forecasts cannot fully predict the upcoming effects of the 2016 El Niño for the rest of the season, but considering the magnitude of damage caused by the last one, it is best to be prepared.
So pull out your heaviest winter coats and start running to the supermarket, because Snowpocalypse Part II might be heading our way!