(NEXSTAR) – In these uncertain times, we know at least one thing for certain: El Niño is here. There is 100 percent certainty that El Niño will persist through early winter, according to the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. said recentlyand a 90% or greater chance of it lasting into the spring.
El Niño typically divides the country in half, but where the dividing line lies varies from year to year. The southern third to half of the United States, including California, is expected to be wetter during an El Niño winter. The Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley are typically dry and warm.
Although the effects of El Niño are never a guarantee, the climate pattern tends to influence the weather across the U.S. as it peaks in winter.
Does this mean El Niño will bring winter storms and snow? Not everywhere and not necessarily, explains Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist at the Climate Prediction Center. in one article last week.
“In fact, El Niño appears to be the largest snowfall suppressor over most of North America.”
El Niño may bring additional precipitation to the southern half of the country, but it is not always cold enough there to convert that moisture into snow. The mountainous regions of the West, such as the Sierra Nevada in California and the southern part of the Rocky Mountains, see slightly more snow during El Niño winters.
Meanwhile, the Great Lakes, some parts of New England, the northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest typically see less snowfall during an El Niño winter, L’Heureux says.
The areas that receive more snow on average during an El Niño winter are shaded blue on the map below, while areas that receive less snow are shaded brown.
In the event of a strong El Niño, as we expect this year, the effects are even more pronounced. More snow is beginning to fall in Northern California, the Four Corners states, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and the southern Appalachian region.
Snow suppression in the north is also stronger during a strong El Niño. States like Oregon, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania are most likely to experience below-average snowfall.
But before you pack away the snow gear, L’Heureux cautions against interpreting the data averages as promises.
“El Niño increases the chances of certain climate outcomes, but never ensures them,” writes L’Heureux.
Added to this are the effects of climate change, which over time has led to less snowy winters in much of the United States. On the other hand, a freak snowstorm can always defy the odds, even during an El Niño year.
In its latest forecast, the Climate Prediction Center said there is a 75% to 85% chance that we will experience a “strong” El Niño this winter. There’s a 30 percent chance it will end up being one of the strongest ever recorded.