LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — For the past three winters we have experienced a La Niña weather pattern – this typically means that the Great Lakes region sees cooler and wetter conditions. But it looks like Mother Nature is trying to shake things up for this upcoming winter.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – or NOAA – says that there is a 95% chance of seeing the opposite set-up, known as El Niño and a 71% chance that it will be “strong.”
El Niño occurs when we have warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This causes a shift in the jet stream and typically results in a milder winter and warmer and drier conditions for the Great Lakes, and wetter conditions for the southern portion of the country.
Scientists say that this generalized pattern is likely going to be enhanced by the fact that we have already seen unprecedented, and unusual warming trends across the globe this year; which is why the forecast for this year is a “strong” El Niño.
These strong El Niño Events are hard to come by. In fact, since 1950 there have only been 7 strong El Niño events; with the most recent one being the winter of 2015 to 2016. A few notable things about this year were that we saw high temperatures of 59 degrees on Christmas Eve, and snow totals for the month of January were nearly 6 inches below normal.
With our season snowfall total is close to the average at 50 inches. So yes, overall, it followed the trend of being a mild and warm season for Mid-Michigan.
But before we get our eyes set on a mild winter, I want to point out the snowfall totals from the past few El Niño years that we have seen. You can see that we have a wide variety of above and below-average snowfall totals.
So, it’s an important reminder that when we talk about these broad-scale climate patterns it is just that, a broad generalization of conditions that we could see in our area.