It is early, but we can probably start deducing some clues on the 2024 Spring Storm season already. With El Niño firmly in place, the global pattern looks much different this year than in the last three seasons. El Niño springs are notoriously variable, mainly because El Niño is just one driver of global weather patterns. Recent El Niños have been active (2010, 2015, 2016, 2019), but there have also been relatively recent El Niño springs which were anything but on the lower plains (2005).
Still, overall, the most recent El Niños have all tended to be much more active than not. And the current system now dropping rain over much of the Central U.S. is one of the reasons why that may once again be the case.
The current drought monitor (left) shows the current status of drought conditions across the Plains. On the right, you can see the current radar mosaic showing heavy precipitation falling in areas where there are drought conditions. In El Niño, this is a common sight throughout the winter months — and many/most end up entering Spring without much drought on the Plains.
This is important because of the dryline, the boundary that sets off many of Tornado Alley’s significant severe weather events. The dryline’s eventual location is at least somewhat affected by soil moisture values (aka drought conditions). Wetter soils will mean the dryline will not move east as quickly and, thus, will set up more west. This is in direct contrast to previous Springs, where the dryline was east very early and way west very late, seemingly skipping over the lower plains much of the Spring. If you enter spring without much drought, it is likely the dryline will stay to the west more often, even in early spring. That, combined with El Niño’s tendency to have a more active storm track early in the Spring, could lead to a fast-starting tornado season in the historical tornado alley.
But, for now, that’s just idle speculation.