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El Niño Is Keeping Us Warmer This Winter

The weather resembles that of the winter of 1997-98, the last time a powerful El Niño was felt.  (Image: lundyd via Compfight cc)
The weather resembles that of the winter of 1997-98, the last time a powerful El Niño was felt. (Image: lundyd via Compfight cc)

Climate scientists and meteorologists are attributing the unseasonably warm winter in the eastern U.S. to the effects of this year’s El Niño, but the weather could start to turn colder in the New Year.

Aside from a few snowflakes here and there, New York City has still not seen any snow settle. December temperatures, in the 50s and 40s, have been some of the warmest on record since 2001.

If you don’t know what an El Niño is, watch this short video by DNews:

Accuweather suggests the weather in New York will start to drop by New Year’s Day, but there will be no rainfall. The temperatures will be “persistently chilly, but not terribly cold for early January this weekend into next week.” The record warmth of December will be gone.

The weather resembles that of the winter of 1997-98, the last time a powerful El Niño was felt. It caused a mild winter with low snowfall in New York, while parts of New England and southeastern Canada experienced the “Great Ice Storm” of January 1998. The southern U.S. was pelted by a series of storms and heavy rainfall, particularly in Texas, Florida, and southern parts of California.

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. (Image: NASA)

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. (Image: NASA)

El Niños come about from a weakening or a reversal of western trade winds in the Pacific that cause warmer temperatures around the equator. These warmer temperatures gradually warm up the ocean in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, causing clouds and storms to then pump heat and moisture into the atmosphere, changing the jet stream paths and storm tracks all over the world, according to NASA.

Watch this GeoBeats News report on the U.S. is expected to feel biggest impacts from El Niño in 2016, according to NASA:

Meteorologists are reluctant to predict how harsh this winter is going to be across the U.S., or when New York can expect a decent snowfall, but most agree that the weather patterns around the world will resemble the winter of 1997-98. And California is likely to get some heavy rains that will provide relief to its drought.

Global effects of El Niño

This year’s El Niño has been implicated in Indian heat waves that were caused by delayed monsoon rains, droughts in South Africa, floods in South America, and increased hurricanes in the eastern tropical Pacific, according to NASA. At the same time, a drop in sea level around the Pacific Islands has caused damage to coral reefs.

In South East Asia, El Niño’s affect on rainfall has attributed to the devastating wildfires in Indonesia, where peat in the soil ignites when the rain dries up.

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