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An El Niño 2015-2016 Review with Weather Decision Technologies


Updated El Nino forecast

The 2015-16 El Nino season is far from over, and for many parts of the United States, the last couple of months have not been easy.  In fact, the City of Pacifica, CA declared a state of emergency last month after pounding waves and powerful winds caused destruction up and down the coastline [1].  The effects of El Nino span globally too – Stephen O’Brien, a United Nations’ under-secretary-general, said that El Nino has pushed the planet into “uncharted territory.” According to O’Brien, “the impacts, especially on food security, may last as long as two years [2].”


But has this El Nino season gone as planned? Back in December of 2015, we sat down with David Gold and Mike Gauthier of Weather Decision Technologies who took us through the forecast and preparation techniques for the impending El Nino season.  Fast forward two months and we are back to take a look at how the current season is panning out.  The results may surprise you.


Major points of interest (highlighted in figures 1-3) include:


  • In terms of the Pacific Ocean state, a strong El Niño with weekly record severe storm track totals (at times) has been in progress.
  • However, climate change including global warming, has also contributed (e.g., exceptionally warm Indian Ocean) to significantly modulating the impact of the El Niño on a global scale.
  • For the Lower 48 states the result has been a much warmer temperature pattern, with the warmth shifting West with time. There have been a few periods of below normal temperature east of the Rockies starting around mid-January.

El Nino Forecast Images:

Figure 1.                                                              Figure 2.                                                            Figure 3.

Figure 1 WDT          Figure 2 WDT          Figure 3 WDT


  • After a wet December focused on the Plains, a good portion of the country has experienced well below normal precipitation, especially from Southwest into the Central/Southern Plains. In fact, short-term drought has developed across Texas, and California has received only limited relief at best from multi-year drought. The precipitation pattern since the start of the year is essentially opposite to the composite signal for strong El Niño (refer to Figures 4-7).


Figure 4.                                                                                                      Figure 5.

Figure 4          figure 5



Figure 6.                                                                                                       Figure 7.

figure 6          figure 7



In any given El Nino season, there is a higher chance that parts of the country will experience an increase in extreme wet or dry weather.  This year however, we aren’t seeing as large of an increase and there are a few anomalies that are worth noting when comparing results to past strong El Niño events:


  • Mount Wilson California: >170% (past strong El Niño events)/96% (this year)
  • Ojai California: >170%/47%
  • Many locations in Texas are running below average for the past 30 and 90 days – well below levels seen in past strong El Niño events


This 2015-2016 El Nino season is proof that not only are there no guarantees when it comes to weather, there is also not one standard El Nino event – each is different and produces unique results.


So what does this mean to you, and your business or community? It means that with so much unpredictability and uncertainly around weather, it is important to prepare for patterns of all kinds. 


If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage Everbride and WDT to prepare for severe weather, visit our website. The experts from WDT can help you analyze these patterns, while Everbridge can ensure you are leveraging messaging back practices, including template creation, to ensure effective communications can be delivered no matter the weather event coming your way.