As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, El Niño has become “the little engine that just couldn’t quite.”
Emily Becker, a research scientist with NOAA, explained that while an El Niño watch remains in place, federal forecasters believe there is between a 50 percent and 60 percent chance El Niño conditions will emerge during the next two months.
Beyond that, a neutral pattern that is a weather wild card is favored.
However, as Becker notes, it’s not just U.S. forecasters who are watching El Niño’s development or the lack thereof. Agencies from other parts of the globe have released their own updates. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology agrees with NOAA and left its El Niño alert raised, while the Japanese Meteorological Agency announced El Niño is upon us but has been since last summer.
“The fact that different agencies are coming to different conclusions is further evidence of how borderline these conditions are. If 'El Limbo' were real, and not a fake category someone at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society thought of, we might have already declared it,” Becker concludes.
What does El Niño mean for the driest areas of the country? Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist with Texas A&M University, reports that a moderate to strong El Niño usually means more moisture to parts of the Southwest and Southeast during the last fall and winter. For drought-weary California, it could bring much-needed rain.
“El Niño has a bad connotation, undeservedly so in the U.S.," said Harry Hillaker, state climatologist in Iowa. "Given the water supply issues they are having in California, more rain would be helpful."