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El Nino To The Rescue?

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An El Nino pattern brings a more active southern Jet across the region during the cool months. An El Nino pattern brings a more active southern Jet across the region during the cool months.
Rain amounts needed to bring soil moisture levels to near normal values. Rain amounts needed to bring soil moisture levels to near normal values.

El Nino. La Nina. ENSO-neutral. Just tell me when this drought will end! I think most Oklahomans are at this point by now, after what have been back-to-back years of record drought (2011-12). Immediate relief from out record heat-drought marriage is currently being felt. Those absurd 110°+ temperatures we suffered through at the beginning of August haven't made a reappearance thus far, nor should they over the next ten days. However, Oklahoma is still left with the agonizing effects of an exceptional drought. When will our soil cease to crack and our leaves flush green again? Well, it won't be the immediate gratification of a cold front that brings an end to this seemingly endless dry spell.

Extreme heat arrives quick, and relative to drought ends quick. Drought typically usurps a region and refuses to leave peacefully, so to kick it out it takes an equally dominant force to undo months of dry skies and cracked Earth. Enter El Nino.

El Nino occurs when warmer than average sea surface temperatures are seen throughout the equatorial waters in the Eastern Pacific. This warmth is already being recorded, though it's only a meager 0.5°C. This paltry increase is classified as a weak El Nino, but forecasters are calling for a moderate El Nino to develop across the Northern Hemisphere during the fall and winter of 2012-13. Moderate-to-strong El Nino events correlate to precipitation increases from 125 to as high as 170 percent of normal over Oklahoma during the period from November to March. In rain talk that's an average increase of two to four inches, and it can be much higher in stronger El Nino Events.

Okay Nick, that's all great, but back to the "just tell me when this drought will end". Right! Short answer, we should gradually start to halt the drought over the next three months with marked improvement during the months of December, January and February. I mentioned earlier it wouldn't be a quick fix, as drought repair takes time!  It would also take 9 to 15 inches of rain over the entire state, but I've bored you with enough numbers and factual tidbits already.

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