El Niño Winter Could Make It Warmer, Wetter In Maryland


The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said El Niño could bring warmer temperatures and more precipitation to Maryland this winter. A stock photo of a slushy winter storm is shown above. (Jenna Fisher/Patch)

MARYLAND — An El Niño climate pattern means Maryland may have a warmer and wetter winter, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said in an updated U.S. Winter Outlook released Thursday.

The United States hasn’t had an El Niño winter in four years.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists expect wetter-than-average conditions to prevail in Alaska, portions of the West, the Southern Plains, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast and the lower mid-Atlantic from December through February. At the same time, it’ll be drier than average across the country’s northern tier, especially in the northern Rockies and High Plains and near the Great Lakes.

“An enhanced southern jet stream and associated moisture often present during strong El Niño events supports high odds for above-average precipitation for the Gulf Coast, lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast states this winter,” Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch of the Climate Prediction Center, said in a news release.

Most of Maryland has a 40 percent to 50 percent chance of having a warmer winter, the release said. Southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore have a 33 percent to 40 percent chance of being hotter than usual.

Western Maryland has an equal chance of being wetter and dryer than normal. The rest of Maryland leans on the wetter side, with a 33 percent to 40 percent chance of increased precipitation. The lower Eastern Shore has a 40 percent to 50 percent chance of being wetter.

A third of the country, including parts of the southern and central U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico, is experiencing drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor updated on Oct. 17.

Most of Maryland isn't in a full drought, but some areas are dryer than normal.

The U.S. Drought Monitor said there's a severe drought in southern Frederick and Washington Counties in Western Maryland. 

There's a moderate drought in the central parts of both counties. 

It's abnormally dry in the rest of Frederick County and the Eastern half of Washington County.

In general, the abnormally dry regions span:

  • Pockets of far-Western Maryland
  • From Hagerstown through Westminster
  • The Pennsylvania border 
  • The Susquehanna River 
  • Southern Maryland
  • The lower Eastern Shore

More specifically, the abnormally dry areas are:

  • Southern Garrett County
  • Southern Allegany County
  • Western Montgomery County
  • Most of Carroll County 
  • North and northwestern Baltimore County
  • The northeastern half of Harford County along the Susquehanna River
  • Western Cecil County along the Susquehanna River
  • Southern Calvert County
  • Southern Charles County
  • Most of St. Mary's County
  • The southern half of Somerset County
  • The southern half of Worcester County

To see a map of the current dry spots in Maryland, visit the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Heavy precipitation later this month is likely to ease drought conditions in the central U.S., Brad Pugh, a drought expert with Climate Prediction Center, said in the news release. The heavy precipitation associated with a strong El Niño pattern is expected to provide drought relief to the southern U.S. during the next few months, Pugh said.

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