April 26, 2012 in Washington Voices

Ocean is in a cycle of cooling and warming

Randy Mann

The latest sea-surface temperature data indicates that we’re still in La Nada, or in-between the warmer El Niño and cooler La Niña phenomena. Our region was once again dominated by a La Niña sea-surface temperature event during the last winter season that resulted in above normal snowfall totals across the Idaho Panhandle.

Speaking of snowfall totals, Coeur d’Alene finished at 83.4 inches, according to Idaho climatologist Cliff Harris. The normal for a season is slightly less than 70 inches. At the Spokane International Airport, 36.8 inches of snow accumulated for the 2011-’12 season. The normal is approximately 45 inches.

Ocean readings near the South American coastline and to the west have warmed to above normal levels in the past several weeks. In late March, sea-surface temperatures were starting to cool down after warming up earlier last month. Over the last week, the numbers have rapidly climbed to 3 to 4 degrees above normal levels near the South American coastline.

The recent increase of sea-surface temperatures along the South American coastline may be an indication of the formation of a new El Niño. It’s quite possible that this new warm-water phenomenon may be declared within a few months.

Japanese and Australian scientists have already stated that we’re heading into a new El Niño, due to the fast warming of ocean waters near the equator. But, as of early this year, we’ve been in a back and forth pattern of cooling and warming of ocean waters.

The warming of ocean waters may have contributed to the warmest March in U.S. history as average readings were a whopping 8.6 degrees above the average since 1895. However, there were other parts of the world, like China, Japan and Alaska that had one of the coldest and snowiest winters in history.

During the cooler La Niña years, our region typically sees a colder and snowier winter. But, when we have the warmer El Niño, we often have milder winters with much less snow.

Precipitation through mid-June should be near or even a bit less than normal in our part of the country. Temperatures overall will be a tad warmer than usual thanks to La Nada.

If you have any questions or comments,contact Randy Mann at www.facebook.com/wxmann.

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