By Ron Smiley


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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — You may have heard that El Niño conditions are back. NOAA has declared a weak El Niño pattern will stick around through at least spring.

So what does this mean for Pennsylvania?

First off, let’s talk about what El Niño is.

El Niño is a global wind pattern. It is detected by measuring the water temperature off the west coast of South America. Warmer water is one of a couple of signs of El Niño conditions. Cooler waters, however, are a sign of La Niña conditions.

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First discovered due to reoccurring monsoonal drought conditions in India, it’s amazing to think that something so widespread has such specific impacts on areas across the globe.

In India, a strong El Niño brings a weaker monsoon season. That raises the potential for life-threatening drought conditions. So there is an importance to being able to detect El Niño conditions early and to forecast how long they will persist.

The impact to the weather here in Western Pennsylvania is not as pronounced.

Generally, El Niño conditions means the arctic jet moves north and the subtropical jet is less active in moving north. While this doesn’t guarantee dry and warmer conditions, we generally say you can expect dry and warmer conditions. That’s in line with the official forecast for the month.

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While we cannot rule out a big snow, don’t expect winter-like weather to linger too far into March. It looks like the groundhog will be right on an early spring for this year.

The most interesting thing for KDKA’s Ron Smiley is the possibility that we could see a dry stretch of weather. That would be a welcome change from the extremely soggy conditions we have seen over the past year.

El Niño conditions are forecast to persist through spring where they will have an updated look at the winter forecast.

Winters are notoriously difficult to forecast the persistence of El Niño conditions until the summer months.

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