What El Niño means for Southwest Florida’s weather

Published: Updated:
El Niño
Credit: The Weather Authority

We’ve heard of the terms El Niño and La Niña used to describe climate patterns, but what else do the terms mean and their significance?

Back in the 1600s, fishermen from South America noticed that the ocean temperatures would get warmer in December.

They named this occurrence after Jesus: El Niño de Navidad, which translates to “The Boy of Christmas,” since the effects of this climate pattern typically peaked around the holiday season.

La Niña didn’t get coined until much later, becoming more of an afterthought to describe the phenomenon when water temperatures are cooler—the opposite of the effects of El Niño.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that scientists began to call the opposite climate pattern La Niña to differentiate the cooler-than-average ocean temperatures.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their U.S. Winter Outlook last week and noted that Florida, along with the Southeast as a whole, can expect a wetter-than-average winter.

Typically, when El Niño dominates, we can expect a stormier winter due to a strong subtropical jet stream.

As far as temperatures, NOAA is not placing bets on a warmer or cooler winter. Instead, they are calling for us to see “equal chances for below, near, or above-average seasonal mean temperatures.”

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