WeatherWise Kids: What is El Niño?

El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures every few years rise above normal across the Central and Eastern Pacific, near the Equator.  It’s actually happening right now…and this El Niño is one of the strongest ever recorded.

So what does that mean for us this winter here in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry? Well El Niño can change in the atmosphere weather patterns and storm tracks.

During previous El Niño winters we were cooler, wetter, with unfortunately greater opportunities for severe weather. Generally tornadoes that develop during strong El Niño seasons are stronger and tend to last longer. In fact our deadliest local tornado outbreak in decades occurred coming out of a strong El Niño winter. During the morning of April 9th, 1998, 6 people were killed when powerful F2 and F3 twisters ripped across our area.

As for our snow chances…well it doesn’t look good.  Most of our strong El Niño winters haven’t brought snow. There are, however, a few rare exceptions…like in February of 1973! 2 feet of snow fell in Central South Carolina and here in Savannah we picked up 3.2”…one of the greatest snowstorms our city’s ever seen.

– WSAV Meteorologist Matt Devitt

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