El Niño could create a stormy fall, winter for Jacksonville

Phase also known to suppress tropical development


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some years are much warmer and wetter -- El Niño -- and some years are much cooler and drier - La Niña. This year and the first part of next year will likely give way to an El Nino phase.

There is a 50-55 percent chance of El Niño onset during the northern hemisphere fall 2018 (September-November), increasing to 65-70 percent during winter 2018-19, according to the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

El Niño has global impacts: some negative, some positive. Even for Florida and the Southeast U.S., some El Niño influences are beneficial; some not so beneficial.

The Gulf Coast generally sees cooler and wetter conditions, not because of numerous arctic outbreaks, but because of the stronger influence of the subtropical jet stream. Storm tracks are farther south on average, producing more clouds, rain, and severe weather.

So how will this pattern shift impact our local climate?

  • El Niño has been linked to reductions in Atlantic hurricane activity due to increased vertical wind shear.
  • El Niño generally brings above-average precipitation to Florida during Fall-Winter-Spring, therefore, reducing risk of wildfires and higher risk of flooding.
  • Increased storminess across the southern U.S. increases the threat of severe weather in Florida during El Niño winters.

Our last strong El Niño phase in the United States was during the fall/winter of 2015-16.