El Nino and warm water 'blob' affecting Northwest weather

El Nino and warm water 'blob' off the Pacific Northwest coast is affecting our weather. Glenn Farley reports.

SEATTLE - The National Climate Prediction Center says a weak El Nino should be with us through December at least.

El Nino has the effect of keeping the fall and winter climate in the Pacific Northwest warmer and drier than normal. El Nino forms when a warm pool of water at the surface of the Pacific Ocean along the equator builds up along the west coast of South and Central America. This El Nino is expected to be weak.

The bigger effect is coming from something like El Nino and much closer to the Pacific Northwest. It's called "the blob," another big pool of warmer than normal water. The blob is off the Washington coast and goes north, pretty much filling the Gulf of Alaska. At its warmest point, it's five degrees warmer than normal, and as the air blows across it, that air also becomes warmer as it heads over land. El Nino's effects are largely confined to the fall and winter months, but "the blob" helped create a warmer summer than normal.

In May, Washington state climatologist Nick Bond with the University of Washington had forecast a warmer and more humid summer for 2014 because of the blob. And now looking back?

"Clearly, it's a warmer than normal summer." he said.

He said summer temperatures were four degrees higher than average. Bond also had fears about what the blob would do, and in that same May interview remarked that the summer could bring an active fire season. As it turned out, the fire season set a new record for the largest fire in state history.

The blob first appeared last winter, and Bond says it led to a drier and warmer first half of the 2013-2014 winter season, although strong rains in early 2014 more than made up for it. Even during the sunny, warm summer, several big downpours balanced out the precipitation effects of the blob.

Bond is now writing a scientific paper on the unusual blob. And the blob isn't going away. He forecasts its effects will be felt over this winter.

"Warmer and drier. Perhaps a few less wind storms than usual. But again, there's so much variability in the system," said Bond. "To push the casino analogy, there are so many wild cards."

And yes, he's expecting there to be a ski season and a decent snow pack.


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