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NC CSC El Nino Webinar Draws a Crowd

The current El Nino weather pattern moving over the continental US has a 90% chance of lasting through the fall and around an 85% chance of lasting through the 2015-16 winter, which could mean a warm season for parts of the north central region according to Imtiaz Rangwala and Joe Barsugli, climate drivers team leads for the North Central Climate Science Center. The pair partnered with Western Water Assessment’s Jeff Lukas on July 28th for a webinar discussing the drivers of El Nino, how impacts might manifest in the north central region, and what monitoring tools and resources exist for land managers who may be affected by these weather patterns. Around 50 stakeholders, project leads, and researchers attended the presentation, including representatives from the North Central CSC, the Western Water Assessment, the USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub, and interested stakeholders from agricultural and land management backgrounds.

The NC CSC climate drivers team opened the presentation by discussing the process of El Nino in the tropical pacific and what the regional release of heat from the oceans into the atmosphere means for global air circulation. Based on observed records from the last few months, the team suggested that the moderate El Nino experienced so far was likely to turn to a strong or very strong event, which would mean the following for the north central region:

  • High confidence of warmer than normal winter conditions in the northern tier of the region – Montana, Wyoming and Dakotas;
  • Wetter winter season in the southern part of the region including Nebraska, Kansas and Eastern Colorado;
  • Possibility for wetter soil moisture conditions throughout the Midwest, but with significantly drier condition in the headwaters of the Missouri River Basin;
  • Possibility of reduced snow cover in the much of the region, including reduction in cold air outbreaks;
  • Drier and warmer conditions in the headwaters of the Missouri between Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 may increase wildfire risk in the region

Jeff Lukas of the Western Water Assessment concluded with a discussion of tools available to monitor El Nino conditions in the north central region, including: WWA Rocky Mountains – High Plains Climate Dashboard, which regularly updates climate data based on historical trends, current conditions, and future prediction; the NOAA ENSO Blog, which posts two to four articles per month designed to highlight nontechnical application of ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation); NOAA CPC Weekly ENSO, which provides updates on what is occurring in the tropical pacific; and IRI ENSO Resources

A recording of the webinar is available on the NC CSC’s revamp climate webpage.