Will Oregon's weather feel like California? Climatologist talks El Nino, warming future (2023)

Zach UrnessSalem Statesman Journal

In a few decades, the Willamette Valley might feel like California, droughts and floods could be more commonplace and 100-degree days may be par for the course.

The next year could provide a preview of what's to come.

That’s according to Oregon state climatologist Larry O’Neill, the state’s czar for studying how climate change is impacting the Beaver State.

O’Neill recently joined the Explore Oregon Podcast for a conversation about the state’s short and longer-term climate prospects.

More: Explore Oregon Podcast: Updates on Labor Day wildfires trial, forest access, hikes

O’Neill talks about the likely return of El Nino next winter and why that might lead to historically warm temperatures and lower-than-normal snowpack next winter, before diving into a long-term look at what the gradually rising temperature in Oregon means for the future.

Answers have been edited down for length and brevity. Listen to the full episode at StatesmanJournal.com/explore.

Zach Urness: Last month we wrapped up a third year of La Nina conditions — which tend to bring cooler and wetter weather than normal. Now, there’s a 60% chance of entering an El Nino pattern this summer and an 85% chance next fall and winter. There have been pretty dire predictions about what that means, particularly for warmer-than-normal temperatures, especially next winter. What does El Nino mean and why are we concerned, or why are we seeing that concerning reporting about it?

Larry O’Neill: During El Ninos, we actually get a large release of heat from the ocean into the atmosphere. That means during El Ninos, the global temperature is well above normal. And this is coinciding with this background global warming where the average temperatures are getting warmer every year. The concern is that this El Nino will be much warmer than El Ninos we've experienced in the past. The last strong El Nino we had was in 2015, and that's when Oregon set its warmest temperature on record. So, we're very concerned that this year will turn out to be much warmer than normal.

More: Oregon snowpack jumps to 172% of normal, best since 2008, could delay wildfire season

Urness: As a reporter, 2015 really grabbed my attention because it was so shockingly different than anything we’d experienced. There was barely any snow — barely a trace — in the mountains throughout the winter. I remember there being a giant lake at Hoodoo Ski Area. It was bizarre. So in the coming year, are we expecting a similar El Nino and similar impacts?

O’Neill: The forecast right now is for about an 85% chance of developing El Nino conditions going into the fall and a 62% chance of it developing this summer. If that is the case, if an El Nino develops, we have a bit higher chance of a warmer summer.

In summers leading into El Nino events, the coastal ocean off the Pacific Northwest tends to be much warmer than normal. The ocean can experience significant changes in productivity and fishery yields. For instance, salmon don't do as well in El Nino years. We may see these impacts in the late summer and fall. But the most obvious and impactful changes to our local weather in Oregon would likely come next winter.

Urness: So, I guess a selfish takeaway is that if you love skiing, you should take advantage of this nice snowpack out there because there are decent odds that next winter won't be very good snow-wise. Like, is that fair? Or is that pushing it too far?

O’Neill: No, I think that's fair. Get your turns in now.

Urness: Stepping back and looking at the wider playing field, do we have a handle on the impact climate change is having on La Nina and El Nino patterns? We've talked about its kind of amplifying things — just normal weather on steroids — but is it having any direct impact on those two patterns and when they show up, how powerful they show up and stuff like that?

O’Neill: There's some debate in the scientific community on how climate change is affecting the ENSO cycle in general — the patterns of El Nino and La Nina, and then also how they impact our weather. We just don't have long enough data records to really be confident that we know that what's happened in La Nina and El Nino years in the past are going to continue. But one thing is certain is that climate change is starting to make our weather more unpredictable. And that's especially true for precipitation — which has gotten much more erratic between seasons. Take the last two years — spring 2021 was the driest in Oregon’s recorded history and then spring of 2022 was the wettest. Those were both in similar La Nina conditions, but very different outcomes.

Urness: One story we wrote the last two years has been an overarching look at the state's temperature compared to historical records, and then some more specific observations about different locations across Oregon. Most recently, we reported that this past year, 2022, was the 10th hottest year statewide in records going back to the 1890s. That continued a string of historically hot years. Of the 13 hottest years recorded in Oregon, nine have come since 2000 and seven have come since 2010. So those are the facts. But one thing that stuck out to me is that Oregon barely ever has cold years anymore. It's only happened, I think, three times since the 1980s? You mentioned that of the last 37 years, 34 of them have been warmer than average. So, I guess the question is, has climate change locked us in to the point where it's just difficult to have a cool year? Like do you need five things to go right to get a cool year at this point?

O’Neill: Yeah, it's just this slow background warming that’s happening most places on Earth. We don't necessarily expect that we'll ever get back to having a very cold year like we had in the '50s or '60s or '70s here in Oregon. We are pretty locked into that until we reduce our concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Urness: To push back a little, one thing I hear a lot is that, even last year, it was the 10th warmest year on record, but really it was only 1.7 degrees warmer than an average Oregon year. So that's warmer, but not much warmer. It doesn't seem like a big deal, a couple degrees here and there. Why are a few degrees impactful?

O’Neill: Back in the 1930s when this link between greenhouse gas and the Earth's temperature came to being, there was this very famous cartoon of people in northern latitudes being able to sunbathe and grow crops where they couldn't before because it was too cold and things like that. And so, there was this idea that climate change might actually be good for society. By increasing our greenhouse gas emissions like this, we're running kind of a poorly designed science experiment where we're warming the planet and seeing how it affects society and natural systems on Earth. And what we're seeing that there's a lot of adverse impacts on society (even at 1.7 degrees or two degrees). There are warmer winters, less snowpack with earlier melt outs, so that really impacts our water supply, recreation and affects our wildfire risk in higher elevations. There's more invasive species in Oregon, both aquatic and grasses, that increase our fire risk and become a nuisance. We have warmer stream flows, so more harmful algal bloom, which can cause issues with water quality for our municipal and irrigation. There's more heat stress on aquatic species in the rivers and more concentration of harmful toxins in our waterways. We're getting more heat waves and heat stresses, (which) is a very strong health risk for the public. More frequent, severe and impactful droughts, which has really affected agricultural and livestock producers. We have declining groundwater supplies, especially in southern Oregon right now. I think that's kind of an overview of the observed impacts from our poorly designed science experiment.

Urness: Speaking of water, you mentioned that a few times and it’s obviously a big deal. But in the climate models played forward, while the state continues to warm, we are projected to get similar amounts of rainfall, correct? And that’s shown up in recent years, especially on the west side of the state, where we’ve had warmer than normal years, but precipitation has stayed pretty close to normal. Can you parse that out?

O’Neill: Basically, as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water vapor. And what that means is that there's more water vapor available to condense in the clouds and form precipitation. And so just because of that, we're expecting that there's going to be either the same amount of precipitation or a little bit more on a globally average basis. When you go down to a regional scale to Oregon, the projections right now are that we’ll probably have about the same amount of rain when you average over a decade or two, but the swings between wet and dry years will be greater. We expect that the dry years will be drier and then the wet years will be wetter. What that means is that there's going to be an increased amount of impacts on both ends. So just like it's been very dry last few years, we will inevitably go into a cycle where we get much more rain than we need and there'll be more flooding concerns and things like that. And then, inevitably, we'll go into a drought year where things will just be drier than they have been before.

Urness: One thing you mentioned a few years ago that has stuck with me as a very good, but super simple way of describing it, is that Oregon is starting to feel more like California than Washington. Do you still feel like that's a good way of describing it in super simple terms? 

O’Neill: I think so, yeah. In the '90s, I grew up in Sacramento, in northern or central California. And, while Oregon is not quite there yet, we are starting to feel more like far northern California. In terms of both of our temperatures and precipitation variability in another 30 or 40 years, someplace like Corvallis here will start to feel a lot more like Sacramento.  

Urness: One thing to consider is that Oregon is a pretty different state. Topographically, not all places have been impacted equally. The Oregon Coast sticks out, especially during the heatwaves of recent summers. The coast hasn't been very hot compared to what we’ve seen in the Willamette Valley and especially Eastern Oregon. East of the Cascades, it's been really hot, really dry, but you get over to the coast and it's pretty close to historical averages. Do you expect that to eventually change or is the coast just kind of buffered because it's right next to the ocean and the farther you get to the east, the more you're seeing the impact?

O’Neill: That's exactly right. The coast is moderated a lot by the ocean temperatures. The ocean is expected to warm. It's a little bit uncertain how the water very close to the coast within about 50 miles or so will change. We see someplace like Seattle that is on the Puget Sound and if you look at the long-term monitoring stations, they haven't warmed as much as when you go into stations inland or to the east of the Cascades. The climate models all point to the fact that the inland areas will warm much more than in the places near the coast. 

Urness: Well, it's been so striking. I mean, when we get into these heat waves during the middle of summer, everybody just wants to go to Newport because it'll be over 100 degrees in Salem, and then you look over at Newport and it's like 63 or something like that. So, I guess the idea here is buy some real estate in Newport or along the Oregon Coast.

O’Neill: Yeah, I think people are doing that.

Urness: So, one of the things everybody remembers is the 2021 heat dome — that record-setting 117 degrees in the Willamette Valley. Is it still viewed as a totally freak occurrence? Because that's kind of how it was described when it was happening. Or will situations like that become increasingly possible as we head out 5, 10, 15 years? Is that totally abnormal or is that like now within the sphere of possibility? 

O’Neill: There's a general growing consensus is that it was a rare combination of a couple different elements that came together at once. Climate change did contribute to it, but it may not have caused it or been an overriding factor in the generation of the heat dome. With that said, we do expect heat waves to increase in frequency and intensity going forward and we have seen that last summer. Last summer (2022) was just as warm as the summer before (2021). Even though we didn't have the high-impact event, like the heat dome, the nights were warmer, the days were just a little bit warmer, and it was consistently warm. It was consistently in the 90s. And that is more of what we expect from climate change, just that the summers are a little bit longer, the nights are warmer, the days are warmer, but it's not necessarily getting to be, you know, 116, 117 degrees a couple times a summer. 

Urness: So, we're not heading for 120 degrees, we're just heading for a super long string of 90-degree days. Where 90 starts to feel like 80 used to. 

O’Neill: Yeah, that's exactly right. In 30 or 40 years, the models are suggesting that every summer we'll start to get 105- or 110-degree days, or many summers will be like that.

Urness: Anything else that sticks out? We've covered a lot of ground from wildfires to droughts to just hotter days and less snow. Anything else that sticks out to you as far as what to expect as we go forward or even just into next year? 

O’Neill: One of the things that actually I spend a lot of time looking at is the impacts of climate change on soil moisture. And in Oregon, and everywhere, the amount of moisture in the soil really has a big impact on our stream flows, on the health of the vegetation, our ability to grow crops and raise livestock and our lake levels and our wildfire risk. 

The very consistent signal from climate change that we expect is just drier soils year-round. And even this year's a good example. Even though the snowpack is doing quite well up in the Cascades, we have quite a few soil monitoring sites that are at or near record-low soil moisture content for this time of year. And that's just a really worrying signal, that even though we have a good snowpack, we’re not able to recharge our groundwater supplies.

Urness: One thing that I'm curious about in the long-term is that there's been a lot of talk about reducing greenhouse gases and whether we're able to do that or not. But are we baked into a level of warming for a while at this point? Like even if we threw on the brakes, wouldn't it take a while to see the impact of that? 

O’Neill: Yes. Even if we were to completely go to zero carbon emission or greenhouse gas emissions, it would take about 15 or 20 years for us to see the global average temperature drop to maybe the levels that we've seen since the '90s or '80s or something like that. There is a technical term for it. It's a little bit of inertia in the system. It just means that the temperature is warming, and so it's going to just take a while for that warming to kind of slow down and stop and start to cool again. One of the reasons for that is that carbon dioxide, which is the predominant greenhouse gas that's causing our warming, stays in the air for up to 100 years on average. 

The natural processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are pretty slow. So even if we were to stop our emission of that, the concentrations are already very large in the atmosphere. But with that said, there is a greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to the warming that gets out of the atmosphere pretty quick. And that's methane. So, methane is responsible for about 25% of the average temperature rise that we're experiencing from global warming. But it has a resonance time in the atmosphere of about 20 or 25 years. So, if we can reduce our methane emissions, we can actually see a response within our lifetimes of the atmosphere. We often think of methane emission reductions as being kind of a low-hanging fruit in our response to climate change and our mitigation scenario for climate change. So, it would be a fairly good bang for our buck in, in trying to mitigate climate change, to reduce methane emissions. 

Urness: What's your outlook? Are there any positive things that we can look at as far as progress? Anything positive that you can hang your hat on? 

O’Neill: So, we grew up back in the early 2000s and we started to know and see that climate change was happening. It was becoming obvious in our instrumented data records. So, we were seeing it in observations, and we were starting to see the adverse impacts from that. And at that time, electric cars weren't really a thing. They were kind of a novelty and there wasn't a real good path forward. And I remember thinking at that time, with the way the world was structured, there didn't seem to be a path forward to kind of moving beyond fossil fuels. 

And right now, I see that there's a lot of progress being made, so now you can go get electric cars. The technology is there that over a lifetime of the car, you're reducing emissions by a substantial amount. It isn't a lot. But it is something we now see that there's a path forward that in 10 or 20 years, there's a lot of momentum for progress. I know that there are a lot of naysayers and people who kind of view that as too little too late. But compared to where we were 20 years ago, I think there's a good path forward. And I think we just need to stay the course.

Urness: So, there's a path forward. It's just a matter of staying on the path or maybe sprinting forward? 

O’Neill: Yeah. But we do need to move quicker.

Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached atzurness@StatesmanJournal.comor 503-399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.


Will Oregon's weather feel like California? Climatologist talks El Nino, warming future? ›

Will Oregon's weather feel like California? Climatologist talks El Nino, warming future. In a few decades, the Willamette Valley might feel like California, droughts and floods could be more commonplace and 100-degree days may be par for the course. The next year could provide a preview of what's to come.

What does El Niño mean for Oregon? ›

El Niño usually means a warm, dry winter for the Pacific Northwest, Ohio Valley, northern Rockies and parts of the Midwest.

How climate change will affect Oregon? ›

On a statewide level, Oregon is becoming warmer and drier. Oregon's annual average temperature has increased by around 2.2℉ over the past century. Without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Oregon's annual temperature is projected to increase by 5℉ by mid-century and by 8.2℉ by the 2080s.

How does El Niño affect Portland Oregon? ›

However, warmer, drier weather is a historically common outcome for the Pacific Northwest during an ENSO neutral or El Niño season. “Since 1970, of the 31 years that were ENSO neutral or El Nino, only 12 years were at or above average precipitation in Portland,” O'Neill said.

What does El Niño mean for the Pacific Northwest? ›

El Niño causes the Pacific jet stream to move south and spread further east. During winter, this leads to wetter conditions than usual in the Southern U.S. and warmer and drier conditions in the North. El Niño also has a strong effect on marine life off the Pacific coast.

What is a super El Niño? ›

The phenomenon is said to be "like a natural form of climate change," Time describes. However, this year scientists are warning of a potential "super El Niño," which could cause "very high temperatures in a central region of the Pacific around the equator," per The Guardian.

Will there be an El Niño in 2023? ›

El Niño is forecast to return in 2023. Here's what the phenomenon means for extreme weather and global warming. El Niño is set to return this year, and it could push the world past a new average temperature record. The global weather phenomenon refers to when waters in the Pacific Ocean become much warmer than usual.

Why is El Niño bad for the East Pacific? ›

During El Niño, the surface winds across the entire tropical Pacific are weaker than usual. Ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are warmer than average, and rainfall is below average over Indonesia and above average over the central or eastern Pacific.

What will the weather be like in Oregon 2050? ›

The state's average annual temperature is projected to increase 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and more than 6 degrees in summer.

Is Oregon a good place to move for climate change? ›

Climate Change Risk Ratings for Oregon

People in Oregon will experience especially increased risks from precipitation, heat, and fire due to climate change over the next 30 years. These risks, through 2050 and beyond, may change depending on how much we reduce emissions in the near future.

What state will do best with climate change? ›

These five states are the best prepared for climate change.
  • Maine. ...
  • Wyoming. ...
  • California. ...
  • Florida. ...
  • Utah. ...
  • South Carolina. ...
  • Texas. ...
  • Methodology.
Jul 15, 2022

Is Oregon going to have a wet winter? ›

Winter temperatures will be milder than normal, with slightly below-normal precipitation and snowfall.

Does El Niño get worse with climate change? ›

Some scientists believe they may be becoming more intense and/or more frequent as a result of climate change, although exactly how El Niño interacts with climate change is not 100 percent clear. Climate change is likely to affect the impacts related to El Niño and La Niña, in terms of extreme weather events.

Does El Niño or La Niña cause more snow? ›

El Nino typically brings more snow to the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, while La Nina typically brings more snow to the Southern Rockies and parts of the Midwest.

Does El Niño only affect the Pacific Ocean? ›

Even though El Niño occurs in the Pacific Ocean, it often reduces the number of hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean. Conversely, La Niña events tend to be related to an increase in the number of Atlantic hurricanes. Food production is impacted by ENSO.

Does El Niño affect the Western Pacific? ›

The normal easterly trade winds weaken and sometimes, the winds will switch and blow from the west to the east! The result is drier weather conditions over the Western Pacific which can impact food and water availability, like taro. Mostly, El Niño conditions linger for a year, but sometimes longer.

Does La Niña mean more rain for Pacific Northwest? ›

In a La Niña winter, the storm track tends to hit the Pacific Northwest with heavier rain and flooding, sometimes dipping into Northern California. The American Southwest, meanwhile, is left drier than normal. La Niña brings other changes, as well.

What was the worst El Niño in history? ›

The 1982-1983 El Niño was the strongest and most devastating of the century, perhaps the worst in recorded history. During that period, trade winds not only collapsed--they reversed. Its effects were long lasting as well.

What is the strongest El Niño ever recorded? ›

The strongest El Niño event was in the winter of 1997-98, where the ONI peaked at 2.3. Oceanic Niño Index since 1950. Noted years represent the seven El Niño events where the ONI exceeded a value of 1.5, the definition of a strong El Niño.

What disease does El Niño cause? ›

In fact, ENSO can affect outbreaks of a variety of diseases, including cholera, Chikungunya, Zika, Rift Valley fever, and plague (yes, that infamous, Medieval-times kind of plague!). A multi-organization team of scientists (1) led by Dr.

Will 2023 summer be hot in California? ›

Summer 2023 Outlook

The rest of the country should see temperatures near average. Much of the Southeast and parts of California and Arizona will see temperatures that are near average or slightly cooler.

Does El Niño mean hotter summer? ›

El Nino: What it is and why it matters

El Nino is the warm phase of ENSO when ocean temperatures are warmer and precipitation is greater than normal in the area spanning the central to eastern Pacific Ocean.

When was the last El Niño in California? ›

Past Impacts in California

The 1982/83 and 1997/98 El Niños have been among the most damaging and well-documented events in the modern record (both are classified as 'extreme' events) and illustrate the magnitude of impacts El Niño can have in California.

What effect does El Niño have on the Pacific Northwest? ›

El Niño generally diverts the jet stream, and thus winter storms, into California, leaving the Pacific Northwest high and dry (comparatively). These winters often have low precipitation and mild winters in the Pacific Northwest, sometimes resulting in a poor mountain snowpack.

Will the East Pacific get more rain during El Niño? ›

During El Niño

Starting with changes in the ocean, this means that the normally cool eastern Pacific becomes warmer, leading to increased rising motion over the central and/or eastern Pacific and more convection and rainfall.

What country is most affected by El Niño? ›

El Niño and La Niña have the greatest impact on countries around the Equator. This includes Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and eastern and southern Africa. In other words, they hit some of the world's poorest regions the hardest. What's more, these regions rely heavily on agriculture.

Are people moving out of Oregon? ›

The State of Oregon Lost Population in 2022

In total, Oregon experienced a negative 17,000 net domestic migration in 2022 – in other words, 17,000 more Oregonians moved out-of-state than people moved here from other states.

Why is Oregon getting warmer? ›

People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Other heat- trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of our planet about one degree during the last 50 years.

What states are best for climate change by 2050? ›

Climate change hazards like extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding are expected to impact millions of Americans by 2050. Vermont is the best state to move to avoid climate change. At-risk homeowners can minimize threats and save money by future-proofing their homes.

Which state in the United States is predicted to have the most warming due to climate change? ›

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Alaska has been warming twice as quickly as the global average since the middle of the 20th century. Alaska is warming faster than any U.S. state.

What part of the US is safest from climate change? ›

The best cities for climate change
  • Seattle, Washington. Like San Francisco, Seattle doesn't expect to see a drastic increase in days with extreme heat or high heat and humidity. ...
  • Columbus, Ohio. ...
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota. ...
  • Baltimore, Maryland. ...
  • Portland, Oregon. ...
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ...
  • Richmond, Virginia. ...
  • Houston, Texas.
Dec 22, 2022

What city in Oregon has the best climate? ›

Klamath Falls, located near the California border and close to the Willamette National Forest, boasts Oregon's sunniest city, with the best climate in the state. Klamath Falls has well over 300 days of sunshine per year, earning it the title “City of Sunshine” in Oregon.

Where is the safest place to live from climate change? ›

A paper published by the Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom has identified five countries in geographical locations with “favourable starting conditions” that may allow them to be less touched by the effects of climate change: New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland.

What are the 5 best states to live in for climate change in the US? ›

Each state was ranked based on five environmental factors. These were Carbon Emissions, the Adoption of Green Technology, Landfill Usage, Recycling and Green Policies. Overall, the top five best states concerning climate resilience are California, Maine, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Where are people moving due to climate change? ›

But it's not just southern states, including Louisiana and Florida, that residents are increasingly fleeing due to climate issues. Numerous coastal towns in Alaska are also being impacted, as diminishing sea ice exposes them to storms, and rising temperatures thaw the ground and put countless structures at risk.

What is the weather prediction for the Pacific Northwest this winter? ›

Region 15: Pacific Northwest

Winter temperatures will be milder than normal, with slightly below-normal precipitation and snowfall. The coldest periods will be in mid-November and early and late December. The snowiest period will be in mid-November.

What is the water supply outlook for Oregon? ›

OREGON WATER SUPPLY SUMMARY AND SPRING FLOOD POTENTIAL AS OF APRIL 3RD 2023... The water supply forecast for the spring and summer of 2023 is average to above average for most Oregon watersheds, with most watersheds showing an increase of 10 to 30 percent from a month ago.

Does Oregon have water shortage? ›

Oregon's water issues affect hundreds of thousands of people. About 40% of the state is currently in a severe drought. In central, southern and eastern Oregon, the drought has been the longest, and overuse and contaminated water are pronounced, the report found. The situation is expected to get worse.

Which is worse La Niña or El Niño? ›

In general, El Niño conditions lead to wetter, snowier conditions in Amarillo and cooler maximum temperatures during the winter. La Niña conditions lead to drier and warmer temperatures overall, with notable extreme cold spells.

Are El Niño getting stronger? ›

As climate change continues to intensify, some scientists predict La Niña and El Niño events, opposing climate patterns that recur in the Pacific Ocean, will become stronger and more frequent, leading to shifting hurricane patterns, flooding, and droughts.

Will global warming make El Niño more frequent? ›

The study examined four possible scenarios for future carbon emissions, and found increased risk of El Niño events in all four. This means El Niño events and associated climate extremes are now more likely "regardless of any significant mitigation actions" to reduce emissions, the researchers warn.

Which brings more rain to California El Niño or La Niña? ›

The El Niño Southern Oscillation typically brings more wet weather to the Golden State.

Does El Niño or La Niña cause more rain in California? ›

El Niño, on the other hand, is linked to a higher probability of above-normal rainfall in California.

Does El Niño or La Niña have stronger winds? ›

La Niña has the opposite effect of El Niño. During La Niña events, trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia. Off the west coast of the Americas, upwelling increases, bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.

What kind of effects might we notice in California from El Niño? ›

In addition to this background enhanced sea level, El Niño is often accompanied by increased storms hitting the California coastline, this includes large wave and swell events (increased water level) as well as the potential for large rainfall events.

Is the Pacific Ocean warmer during El Niño? ›

During an El Niño event, the surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer than usual. That change is intimately tied to the atmosphere and to the winds blowing over the vast Pacific.

Does water pile up in the western Pacific during El Niño? ›

El Niño Conditions

The result is the normal flow of water away from South America decreases and ocean water piles up off South America. This pushes the thermocline deeper and a decrease in the upwelling.

Which countries in the Pacific are greatly affected by El Niño? ›

As many as 4.7 million people face hunger, poverty and disease due to El Niño related droughts, erratic rains and frosts. Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga are also experiencing worsening drought, while central Pacific countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu will likely see flooding, and higher sea levels.

Does El Niño mean more or less snow? ›

In general, El Niño conditions lead to wetter, snowier conditions in Amarillo and cooler maximum temperatures during the winter. La Niña conditions lead to drier and warmer temperatures overall, with notable extreme cold spells. In stronger El Niño or La Niña episodes, these trends are even greater.

What does La Niña mean for the Pacific Northwest winter? ›

La Niña usually aims the jet stream right at the Pacific Northwest, from the north Pacific, so that cold moist air and vigorous storms come right at us, bringing plenty of mountain snow.

What is the difference between La Niña and El Niño in PNW? ›

El Niño refers to the above-average sea-surface temperatures that periodically develop across the east-central equatorial Pacific. It represents the warm phase of the ENSO cycle. La Niña refers to the periodic cooling of sea-surface temperatures across the east-central equatorial Pacific.

Is El Niño good or bad? ›

Generally speaking El Niño brings: cooler and wetter weather to the southern United States. warmer weather to western Canada and southern Alaska. drier weather to the Pacific Northwest.

Which is worse El Niño or La Niña? ›

In the United States, because La Nina is connected to more Atlantic storms and deeper droughts and wildfires in the West, La Ninas often are more damaging and expensive than their more famous flip side, El Nino, experts said and studies show. Generally, American agriculture is more damaged by La Nina than El Nino.

Does El Niño mean warmer winters? ›

El Niño conditions have frequently brought drier, warmer winters to the northern parts of the continental U.S. Specifically in the Pacific Northwest, an El Niño tends to favor a warmer winter and lower-than-average precipitation.

Does climate change make El Niño worse? ›

Some scientists believe they may be becoming more intense and/or more frequent as a result of climate change, although exactly how El Niño interacts with climate change is not 100 percent clear. Climate change is likely to affect the impacts related to El Niño and La Niña, in terms of extreme weather events.

What kind of winter is predicted for Oregon? ›

Annual Weather Summary

Winter temperatures will be milder than normal, with slightly below-normal precipitation and snowfall.

What kind of winter is predicted for the Pacific Northwest? ›

Starting in December 2022 through February 2023, NOAA predicts drier-than-average conditions across the South with wetter-than-average conditions for areas of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.

What is the weather prediction for the Pacific Northwest winter? ›

With La Niña persisting, NOAA's winter forecast favors wetter weather in the Pacific Northwest and drier conditions in Southern California for December 2022 to February 2023. Northern California and the Bay Area fall in an in-between area, where the odds of the winter going in one direction or the other aren't strong.

Is 2023 El Niño or La Niña? ›

In summary, ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring, followed by a 62% chance of El Niño developing during May-July 2023 [Fig. 7].

Does El Niño make the Pacific ocean warmer? ›

During an El Niño event, the surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer than usual. That change is intimately tied to the atmosphere and to the winds blowing over the vast Pacific.

Why is it so hot this year 2023? ›

The return of the El Niño climate phenomenon later this year will cause global temperatures to rise “off the chart” and deliver unprecedented heatwaves, scientists have warned.

What was the worst year of El Niño? ›

The 1997–1998 El Niño was regarded as one of the most powerful El Niño–Southern Oscillation events in recorded history, resulting in widespread droughts, flooding and other natural disasters across the globe.


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