Warmer winter in the forecast

LIHUE — Kauai isn’t the only place in America looking at wet weather as El Nino starts to make its presence in the Pacific Ocean.

In early October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the wet season outlook for Hawaii, predicting above average rainfall, at least early in the season — which runs from November through March or April.

Thursday, NOAA released their forecast for the rest of the nation throughout the winter, predicting a warmer than normal winter for the northern and western three-quarters of the nation. The greatest chance for warmer than normal winter weather is in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota.

No place in the United States is expected to be colder than normal, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the government’s Climate Prediction Center, in an Associated Press article.

He also said that the winter, overall, is shaping up to mirror the last few.

“The country as a whole has been quite mild since 2014-2015,” Halpert said.

January could bring more precipitation than normal nation-wide, though, with the chances highest in southeastern Georgia and northern and central Florida.

In Hawaii, NOAA predicts more rain as well, because of the expected El Nino.

Currently, we’re in an ENSO-neutral state, which means neither El Nino nor La Nina is present. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, that’s when ocean temperatures, tropical rain patterns and atmospheric winds over the Pacific are near long-term averages.

In June, CPC issued an “El Nino watch,” and the center now says there is a 70 to 75 percent chance of an El Nino developing during the next couple of months.

Once it develops, experts predict the El Nino will persist until the spring when conditions may transition back to an ENSO-neutral state.

Even though there’s a probability of heavy rain events throughout the winter and into the spring, NOAA experts are predicting some drought development on leeward slopes by the end of February.

“Below average rainfall is expected statewide during the winter, but not as dry as 2009-2010,” said NOAA’s Kevin Kodama during the wet season outlook report.

Hawaii isn’t the only state that’s looking at less rainfall in the last half of the winter. Montana, Michigan, Idaho, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are all forecasted to be drier than normal after January.

The prediction comes after a wetter-than-normal dry season on Kauai and throughout much of Hawaii, the second-wettest dry season in 30 years according to NOAA.

And with more rain on the horizon, Kodama and the rest of the NOAA staff remind people to stay prepared for flash floods and for heavy rains: don’t drive or walk through fast-flowing water or flooded streams, prepare for increased travel times and other rainy-weather impacts, and to stay informed.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com


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