This year's El Niño phenomenon, which is the first to be recorded in four years, could change the average winter climate in the Washington metropolitan region, according to the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic Administration, this week. and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States.
Agency experts say there is 100 percent certainty that the strengthening El Niño weather pattern will last into early winter, but there is also 90 percent certainty that in Northern Virginia and part of Maryland , as well as in DC, can last until spring.
They mention that in most El Niño winters, Northern Virginia and part of Maryland get about 2 to 4 inches more than the average snowfall from January to March, according to the Climate Prediction Center. And “moderate to strong” El Niño winters typically see about 6 to 8 inches of snow above average during that period.
A NOAA climate blog maintains: "Historically, the DC metropolitan area sees above-average snowfall during El Niño winters."
The blog says that “strong El Niño winters” have previously caused 4 to 10 inches of snow in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area. But he also warns that “anything can happen.”
Another interesting fact that experts describe is that in other parts of the nation, “El Niño appears to be the great suppressor of snowfall,” according to Michelle L'Heureux, a meteorologist with the agency, in an article she wrote for a specialized publication the last week.
On a national scale, he mentioned that Oregon, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania are the states most likely to see below-average snowfall during a powerful El Niño.
That said, "El Niño tilts the odds in favor of certain climate outcomes, but never guarantees them," L'Heureux added.
This year's El Niño, which began developing in June, is the first in four years. “Not all El Niño's are the same,” he said, and that adds uncertainty to winter forecasts, according to The Weather Channel.
At this time, there appears to be no increased chance of drier or wetter conditions or warmer or colder temperatures in Northern Virginia, according to the private weather company's outlook.
Statistics indicate that the winter of 2015-16 was the warmest on record in the United States, and that year's El Niño was one of the strongest on record. Still, it caused a massive storm in the northeast of the country, including DC, Maryland and Virginia, in late January 2016.
By comparison, El Niño was mildly felt in 2009-2010, “and barely reached strength over the territory in the winter,” The Weather Channel noted.
El Niño is not the only factor influencing winter weather patterns. Air temperatures and climate change also play an important role, warned L'Heureux, the Climate Prediction Center specialist.