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Climate Experts Predict El Niño In Md. Could Bring Another Harsh Winter

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EL NINO
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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SILVER SPRING, Md.  (WJZ)–Maryland’s weather may soon be feeling the impact of El Niño.

Alex DeMetrick reports El Niño is the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, and the changes it brings are global.

Climate experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters in Silver Spring see it forming.

“This is a classically developing El Niño at this point,” said Mike Halpert, NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

It is heating up part of the Pacific Ocean. If the warmer water heats up the air above it, an El Niño is born, pushing the jet stream south and changing much of the world’s weather.

“And that’s why we often times see wetter-than-average conditions across the southern part of the nation and drier-than-average conditions across the north,” Halpert said.

That could put Maryland somewhere in the middle if an El Niño comes, possibly far enough north to produce drought conditions.

But it’s winter that El Niño could be felt most.

The back-to-back blizzards and record snowfall in Maryland happened during the last El Niño in 2010.

“Of course, we’ve also seen El Niño winters that had no snowfall as well. It’s almost like feast or famine when it comes to El Niño and winter snow,” Halpert said.

But El Niño’s impacts on Maryland aren’t all bad. During El Niño years, Atlantic hurricanes have a tougher time forming because the jet stream is further south.

“The wind shear helps tear apart hurricanes before they can really form,” Halpert said.

All that’s missing is that transfer of heat into the air above the Pacific.

Right now experts are saying there is a 70 percent chance an El Niño is coming this summer. It jumps to 80 percent by winter.

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