NOAA 2002-R235
Contact: Marilu Trainor
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Potential Impacts of Moderate El Niño Conditions

Wetter-than-average conditions are expected along much of the southern tier of the United States this winter, as moderate El Niño conditions continue in the Pacific Ocean, a meteorologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NOAA Weather Service) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said today. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

John Janowiak, of the CPC in Camp Springs, Md., told California’s emergency managers and other officials attending a workshop in Sacramento that the upcoming winter will bring above-normal precipitation to the southern half of California and Nevada, and warmer temperatures over much of the north-central states.

According to the latest El Niño update released yesterday, impacts generally will be weaker than the 1997-98 event, but could still have significant impacts across portions of the United States.

El Niño has positive impacts for the country as a whole, with warmer winters in the north-central states and relatively abundant precipitation in the semi-arid areas of the Southwest,” said Janowiak. “Based on recent trends, we expect the waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific to continue to warm and mature El Niño conditions will prevail from December through February 2003. Although further strengthening of this El Niño is possible, we expect it will be weaker than the 1997-98 version, and the global impacts should generally be weaker as well.”

The latest NOAA Winter 2002-2003 outlook predicts: drier-than-average conditions in states in the Ohio Valley and northern Rockies; wetter -than-average conditions, with increased storm activity across the south, and warmer-than-average conditions in the north, including southern and southeastern Alaska.

Dr. Kelly T. Redmond, deputy director and regional climatologist at the Western Region Climate Center in Reno, Nev., urged people to be prepared for regional weather impacts in California and Nevada.

"Historically, the effects of El Niño are generally felt more strongly and more frequently in the southern halves of both California and Nevada. The effects of weak-to-moderate El Niños are more of a toss-up from about I-80 north. We have also noted differences in flood risk on the east and west sides of the Central Valley of California. None of the state's 10 largest Sierra Nevada floods have occurred during El Niño winters. However, the coastal mountains can, by contrast, experience heavy deluges. El Niño does not necessarily have to be strong to cause disruptive or memorable weather in parts of the state," said Redmond.

Elizabeth Morse, meteorologist in charge of the NOAA Weather Service forecast office in Sacramento, said, "Everything from agriculture to summer drinking water is affected by how wet the winter storms are and where they go. Since we can’t control the storms, we need to prepare and react sensibly.”

She added NOAA Weather Service works with partners, including the American Red Cross, media and emergency managers to get safety tips out to the public. “Nearly every winter California has significant storms with heavy precipitation and localized flooding. We encourage residents to review emergency preparedness plans now. Personal responsibility plays the biggest role in keeping people and their property safe during flooding or severe weather. We also encourage residents to listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest forecasts and warnings.”

Dallas Jones, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), said, "Preparedness is the key to protecting life and property during the coming winter. Residents should identify the risks, especially in communities prone to flooding. Identify safe evacuation routes, and maintain an emergency supply kit at all times that includes a first aid kit, canned food, and bottled water."

The NOAA Weather Service San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento forecast offices and the OES sponsored the 2002-2003 Winter Weather Outlook Workshop at the OES facilities at Mather, Calif.

The CPC issues seasonal climate outlooks one to 13 months in advance. The CPC is one of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which is a part of NOAA’s National Weather Service. NOAA Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories and operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

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