Posted: Jul 25, 2012 6:29 PM by Mike Rawlins - MTN Meteorologist
Updated: Jul 25, 2012 6:36 PM
The return of the El Niño weather pattern could dry out Montana and worsen drought conditions, according to the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration.
El Niño, an oscillation of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean characterized by warmer-than-average water temperatures, can have significant impacts on the weather around the globe.
Trade winds blowing from east to west across the Pacific help to pile up warmer waters in the west Pacific. During El Niño conditions, the trade winds relax, bringing fewer cooler waters up to the surface.
Warmer-than-average surface waters play can play a major role on Montana's weather.
Climatic data shows El Niño tends to dry out the Treasure State during the winter months. Records also indicate warmer than normal temperatures when El Niño conditions are present.
Should this pan out for Winter 2012-2013, Montana could see a worsening of the present drought conditions into the upcoming year.
El Niño is only one of the factors that play into Montana's weather, and several other weather patterns can drastically affect conditions under the Big Sky.