Share it! Science : Understanding Weather Patterns: El Niño 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Understanding Weather Patterns: El Niño 2015

weather patterns teaching el nino www.shareitscience.com

Sing with me! "I'm dreaming of a green and brown Christmas!??" It has been a very warm fall in New England, a pattern that looks to continue throughout the start of the winter. Are you experiencing out of the norm weather where you live? If so, you can blame El Niño again!

What exactly is El Niño anyway? It's not just a term meteorologists made up and use when they get bored, although in my experience TV weather personalities do love to latch on to any new buzz word they can! (Polar Vortex and Snowmageddon anyone?)

Every few years we experience the unpredictable weather pattern, El Niño. It is caused by warmer ocean waters in the Pacific. Under normal circumstances strong winds push warm water from South America to Indonesia. This allows the cooler water underneath to rise up. The surface temperature of the ocean water has a great impact on the weather because more clouds form over warmer areas of the ocean. During an El Niño, the winds are not as strong as usual and the warm waters do not move west as they do normally.

El Nino Weather Pattern Conditions
El Nino Conditions
NOAA image[Public domain]

When the temperatures rise in the Pacific ocean, this affects the course of the jet stream. The jet stream is a strong wind high up in the atmosphere that can reach over 200 miles per hour. These winds help to steer weather patterns by moving air masses on the surface of the land and weather systems in the atmosphere. El Niño adjusts the position of the jet stream, giving areas weather that may be different than usual.

Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict that the United States will see wetter than average conditions in southern areas, and drier than average conditions for the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley area. Temperatures will most likely be above average for the west and the northern half of the lower 48 states and colder than normal in the southern plains and southeast. Meteorologists are anticipating many changes in weather patterns as this is one of the strongest El Niño events on record. 

By Giorgiogp2 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Children and students will no doubt notice the changes in weather. I know many kiddos who are looking forward to snow sports and snow days! Below is some additional reading and resources to help you understand and teach about El Niño.

El Niño and Weather Information and Resources: 

Looking for some weather kits for making observations at school or home? (affiliate links)

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