Every few years, you'll hear the news and weather stations reporting about "El Niño". It can have a major impact on climate patterns, but what exactly is it? Let's dig in.
What does El Niño even mean?
For starters, it’s not a named storm, like Nemo or Sandy, but a general pattern of unusually warm weather that generally occurs every three to five years. It starts in the Pacific Ocean and drives winds east to bring warm, subtropical air to us lucky folks in the Northeast. We went through it in New England in winter of 2016, which is why we were fortunate enough to have a milder winter.
What are some of the impacts?
El Niño's impact goes far beyond a having a warm Christmas. Different parts of the country can have more storms, floods, droughts, landslides, and other things like that. So the short answer is: it impacts almost everything. It also means a lot less snow, so the next time El Niño hits, you may have to leave your skis and snowboards in the garage.
The definition of unpredictable
While we can study and learn from El Niño patterns, they're still very hard to predict. One day it could be 50 degrees in the middle of February, and the next it could be sub zero. After all, the only thing we can safely predict about New England weather is that it’s unpredictable.