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Snowfall next year could be below average

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After this cold and snowy winter we may see a pattern change leading to a warm winter with below average snowfall. This is still many months away and things can certainly change.

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We’ve been in an ENSO-neutral state (ocean temperatures within 0.5°C of normal) since the spring of 2012. Warming in the waters of the Pacific Ocean may lead to an El Niño event over the summer. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued an El Niño watch, stating that there is a “50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall.”

A weak El Niño occurs when the temperatures are between 0.5°C and 0.9°C above average. A moderate El Niño when temperatures are 1.0°C and 1.4°C and a strong El Niño with readings 1.5°C and greater.

For West Michigan, warm winters with below average snowfall typically follow moderate or strong El Niño events that peak during the winter.

It’s certainly not a guarantee, there have been El Niño years when the snowfall still climbed to normal levels. Other meteorological factors can override El Niño producing heavy snowfall.

Timing is everything. If the El Niño peaks too early, temperatures for the winter could be below average, this happened in 2002/2003.

We certainly have a long way to go and the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will continue to monitor the ocean temperatures and issue monthly updates.

The slideshow on the top of the page has the official forecast maps.

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