KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Above-average sea surface temperatures dominated the Pacific Ocean around the equator in January 2019, creating a climate pattern known as El Niño. It happens every so often, and this year, that pattern is showing signs of dominating the weather through the spring.
The ocean is one of the biggest influences on our weather. That's because sea-surface temperature anomalies, or departures from normal, have a significant effect on the air above the water, then the climate, and weather patterns around the world.
In West Michigan, El Niño conditions during the winter translate to below-average precipitation. El Niño winters tend to be back weighted as well, meaning warm in the beginning of the winter and cold toward the end.
December 2018 reported above-average temperatures, with an average high of 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally, December averages a high temperature of 34.8 degrees Fahrenheit. January 2019 fit right into the El Niño pattern. The average high temperature for January 2019 was 29.2 degrees; typically, high temperatures in January average 31 degrees.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center released a monthly discussion on the subject that said, "Due to the expected weak strength, widespread or significant global impacts are not anticipated. However, the impacts often associated with El Niño may occur in some locations during the next few months."
The three-month outlook for precipitation probabilities suggested West Michigan will see equal chances for above-, normal- and below-average precipitation in the months of March, April and May. With the plains and southeastern U.S. expected to see above-average precipitation. The Pacific Northwest expected to see below-average precipitation.
The three-month outlook for temperature probabilities suggested for the months of March, April and May in West Michigan also incude an equal chance of above-, normal- and below-average temperatures. The western U.S., East Coast and Gulf Coast states are expected to have above-average temperatures.
The Climate Prediction Center, along with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Weather Service, predicted a 55 percent chance for El Niño conditions to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring for 2019.