Although an El Niño event is looking likely for the upcoming winter season, it is expected to be one of the weaker versions of the event in recent memory, according to experts with the National Climatic Data Center. This could weaken the potential impacts across the southern tier of states, where an “average” El Niño often brings above-average precipitation.
During an El Niño, sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean rise to above average, causing storm tracks to shift to the south. This results in more frequent storm tracks across the Gulf of Mexico and along the northern gulf coast, which enhances winter rainfall for much of Alabama and the gulf coastal region.
Sea surface temperatures have hovered at slightly above average the past few months in the region where El Niño formation is measured, but have not reached the formal threshold yet. An area of cooler water in the north Pacific may be a factor. NOAA scientists say that although it is probably too late for a major El Nino event to develop, chances are still good for a weak one to occur.