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Warm winter on its way

The National Weather Service in Pocatello issued a preliminary winter forecast, and it looks like we will have an El Nino event on our hands this year. That means a warmer and drier winter.

Despite it being the first official week of fall, many folks are already turning their attention to winter.

The Climate Prediction Center in Washington, D.C., is maintaining its El Nino watch for 2012-2013.

Although there is definitely some degree of uncertainty trying to forecast winter in early fall, the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific the past few weeks have been trending toward El Nino conditions.

“Most of the models are pointing towards a weak El Nino event,” explained Corey Loveland, National Weather Service Hydrologist. “And so if that comes to pass, then yes, we will see less snow pack in the mountains this winter.”

This is what happens when El Nino sets up: There are warmer-than-average ocean temperatures near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Then the Pacific storm track moves to the southern states. Meanwhile, the polar storm track tilts southeast, draping across Eastern Canada.

That leaves the Pacific Northwest in a warmer-and-drier-than-average slot, which could have major implications for our water resources.

“If we have back-to-back low water years, a low snow pack,” said Loveland, “then yes — it will definitely hurt the agricultural communities. They may have to cut off water for irrigation early next fall.”

However, there is hope. If winter does turn out to be a dry one, then some wet spring storms could alleviate our water needs.

The El Nino event is forecast to persist through at least February once winter gets going.

However, we should not become complacent. Remember this is an average of several months. There is still the risk of the day-to-day variability when strong winter storms could roll in.

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