El Nio and this spring's forecast

Over the years, you may have heard meteorologists throwing around the terms El Nio and La Nia. These particular weather patterns have very different effects on winter weather in the High Plains.

For a recap, during a La Nia Winter, the waters off the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America are colder than they should be, which causes a large area of upper-level high pressure that shifts the Jet Stream, the track that storm systems take, to our north. The result is a winter in which we see fewer storms, more heat and more wind. Many times during La Nia Winters and the spring that follows, we are left with a bone-dry ground prone to grass fires.

An El Nio Winter is just the opposite. The waters off the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America are warmers than usual. This leads to storm systems moving in from California and Mexico that will have much more moisture with them than they normally would. The result is more rain and usually, more snow. This is exactly the type of winter that we TMve had this year.

What will this wetter than normal winter weather do for our spring TMs severe weather season?

Steve Drillette, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Amarillo, said that the current El Nio is predicted to continue into the early spring before fading late in the season. This means that we will probably see a more active severe weather season. Whether or not that leads to more tornadoes remains to be seen.

The last time that we had an El Nio Winter, we had an early severe weather season that featured four cities on the High Plains taking direct hits from tornadoes. On March 23, 2007, an E- F2 tornado hit Clovis killing two. Another tornado hit Logan, NM, the same day, causing E-F1 damage.

The following month, Cactus and Tulia were both hit by tornadic storms. The storms caused millions of dollars in damage, injured three in Tulia and 13 in Cactus and ravaged roughly 1/3rd of the town.

So, is it possible that we could see a repeat of the 2007 early severe weather season since we are experiencing another El Nio?

Jose Garcia, Meteorologist-in-Charge for the NWS in Amarillo said that every El Nio is different, and it is very tough to say that just because 2007 TMs severe weather season featured direct tornado hits in four area towns doesn TMt mean that the same thing will happen this severe weather season.

So, while it would be nice to see above average rainfall across the region this spring, especially with Lake Meredith setting an all-time record low water level this winter, the associated potential of a more violent spring might make for a not-so-welcome side effect.