El Nino could bring much needed rainfall this winter - Tucson News Now

El Nino could bring much needed rainfall this winter

We are heading into one of the strongest El Nino events on record this winter. This could help bust the drought in the southwest United States and bring much-needed winter snow to the higher elevations.

El Nino is characterized by warmer than usual water near the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. Right now the water is near 2° Celsius warmer than typically seen and could even get warmer. Click here to find out more on the current El Nino situation.

So during an El Nino we usually see more rain than normal in the winter months. This helps our yearly rain stay above the normal in Tucson which is 11.63".

I broke down all El Ninos that were categorized as moderate, strong or extreme and looked at rainfall for each year we had that type of El Nino event. Here is Tucson's yearly average rainfall when El Nino was occurring:

Type of El NinoAverage Rainfall
Moderate (6 years)12.90"
Strong (3 years)15.74"
Extreme (2 years)18.21"

You can see that we average about one inch more during a moderate El Nino year than a no El Nino year. We average three inches more during a strong El Nino event and nearly five inches more during an extreme El Nino event.

The wettest year with an El Nino in place was 1982/1983 (October through September) with 20.41" of rain. That is nearly nine inches more rain than we would normally see a year or 175% of the yearly average rainfall.

As of now we are in an extreme El Nino year so our rainfall this winter could be well above what is normally seen. But with every El Nino, it is not certain we will get the rains or the snow, only the odds are more favored for us to do so.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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