Spring 2019 is fast approaching, and that means the 2019 storm season is also not far behind.
We’re now entering into late February, which means traditionally the odds of getting a real and bonafide chase in are only going up in the coming weeks. It’s never a bad time to look at Spring.
In case you missed it, NOAA announced that El Nino has formed. So what does this mean for the upcoming spring storm season?
“El Nino conditions across the equatorial Pacific have come together, and we can now announce its arrival,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, and ENSO forecaster. “While sea surface temperatures are above average, current observations and climate models indicate that this El Nino will be weak, meaning we do not expect significant global impacts through the remainder of winter and into the spring.”
Forecasters say there is about a 55-percent chance that El Nino conditions will continue through the spring.
Weak El Ninos
El Nino is officially here and looks to last through Spring. So what does it mean for a spring storm season?
This year’s El Nino should remain weak, so that puts it on par with El Ninos which were present going into the 2015, 2007, and 2005 seasons in recent time.
Other weak El Nino years include 1953, 1954, 1959, 1970, 1977, 1978, and 1980.
It should be noted that each year featured a different set of variables — for instance some El Ninos last longer than others, so just entering into a weak El Nino may be different than an El Nino being weak and weakening through the spring.
So all of that to say no two El Ninos are exactly the same in some senses.
This climate stuff sure is complicated eh?
So What Does All This Mean for the 2019 Storm Season
Weak El Nino’s don’t tend to affect things too dramatically (they’re weak for a reason after all). Climate and large scale patterns are driven by more than just ENSO, so its hard to glean any real trends from the data.
In terms of tornado numbers, weak El Ninos produce a wide range of possibilities clustering around average — which means there aren’t big trends to be gleaned.
Recent weak El Ninos (07 and 15) both had a common strand of featuring a lot more activity west and north relatively speaking.
The 2007 chase season in particular seemed to really be big time across W KS and the Texas Panhandle.
Overall though, there’s no much you can glean from the data. What a disappointment I know.
Generally Speaking, Signals Aren’t Strong
The 2019 chase season is anyone’s guess. Last year, with strengthening drought and a weak La Nina — it seemed apparent that we were heading for a pretty bleak chase season even by mid-February.
This year, the storm pattern is more active with little drought over the Plains. Large scale signals aren’t indicative of a lot at this time though. Climate models and forecasts seem to be pointing towards a wetter spring vs. normal though, and it does seem likely we will at least rebound towards the average versus last year’s thin spring storm season.