According to the NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), predictions for this winter’s weather looks like it’ll be one of El Niño’s strongest to date. As a result, global weather patterns and surf could be significantly impacted.
A recent report suggests that there is a 90 percent chance of El Niño’s likelihood through winter and an 85 percent chance it will continue on through spring.
While the effect of El Niño will mostly target the Pacific coast, especially southern California, the combination of El Niño with the North Atlantic Oscillation could make for a considerable difference for the Atlantic. Wetter-than-average and colder-than-average conditions will make up the noticeable differences this winter.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA Climate Prediction Center, released a statement and said, “A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter, while temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snowstorms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”
For the surf, this means that warmer northeast temperatures and cooler southeast weather could result in fewer nor’easters but more localized storms that have the potential to generate waves.
Potential, however, doesn’t make for much in weather.
Professor of Ocean Engineering at UNF and member of the American Metrological Society, Dr. Don Resio, doesn’t believe that El Niño will be a likely catalyst for good surf in itself. “Overall, the El Niño effect will probably not be too dramatic,” he said. “The storm tracks of the extratropical storms which generate the fall-winter surf, will, in the mean, be displaced a bit farther south than last year, if the NOAA seasonal forecast is correct.”
Not all is at a loss for waves here this winter, though.
“Sometimes when the storms move off the coast in the mid-Atlantic region,” Resio said. “We get really good surf from the swell these storms generate. The Atlantic Ocean the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) usually plays a bigger role in determining the tracks of these storms than El Niño, while El Niño has a stronger influence on storm tracks along the Pacific. It appears that NAO favors storms moving off the coast rather than staying overland up to New England. This would be favorable for good surfing conditions along the coast of Florida.”
In short, hope for the best … and maybe get a nice wetsuit.