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El Nino has officially formed. What does it mean for our weather?

Next Weather: WBZ afternoon forecast for June 8, 2023
Next Weather: WBZ afternoon forecast for June 8, 2023 03:46

By Terry Eliasen, WBZ-TV Meteorologist, Executive Weather Producer

BOSTON - It's baaaack! Are you ready for this summer's weather "buzz" word? The National Weather Service officially declared the start of El Nino Thursday.

El Nino is a naturally occurring, climate phenomenon that typically occurs on a cycle of about seven years of so.

It is most noticeable off the coast of South America by the emergence of warmer than average sea-surface temperatures. 

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So, what does this mean? 

El Nino often has major weather implications around the world from floods in some areas to droughts in others. It also tends to raise the average global temperatures as well, often leading to record-setting high temperatures in many areas.

It's impacts locally in the summer are hard to quantify, but most times, El Nino's tend to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season

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El Nino causes a lot more wind shear in regions like the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, the regions where many of our hurricanes tend to form or strengthen. So, taken alone, this COULD mean a quieter hurricane season in 2023. However, the sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and much of the Atlantic are also quite warm right now compared to averages. This warm water is the main driver and fuel for developing tropical systems. Hence, most experts have called for a near normal hurricane season, taking a balance of the two opposing signals.

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The forecast is for a weak/developing El Nino this summer and for a moderate to strong El Nino by this fall and winter. Historically, strong El Nino's have had major impacts on our winters here in New England. Unfortunately, it is not a simple correlation.

Below, you can see what a typical El Nino winter looks like in the United States - warmer across much of the northern-tier and wetter to the south. In New England, it often depends on the strength and location of the El Nino.

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In general, New England winters during an El Nino tend to be warmer and wetter than average. Some of our least snowy winters have correlated with strong El Nino's.   

If you are a snow lover or skier, don't go home yet. A strong El Nino does not always mean a paltry snow year for us. A lot will depend on the precise location and strength of the El Nino, something we will be watching over the next several months.

One thing is for sure, you will hear a LOT more about El Nino in the weeks and months to come, locally and globally. It is always a headline maker. The WBZ Next Weather team will keep you updated and in the know as things develop. 

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