El Niño may not mean what you think it means
August 21, 2015
While it's a sure bet that there will be a strong El Niño this winter, it's even money whether that will mean an end to the four-year drought in Western Nevada.
Western Nevada and the Central Sierra don't always benefit from a strong El Niño, National Weather Service forecasters said in a video released Thursday.
University of Nevada, Reno, Associate Professor Stephanie McAfee, of the Nevada State Climate Office, said that Western Nevada is unlucky in that El Niños are not an effective predictor of the weather here.
"Here El Niños can be wet, El Niños can be dry or El Niños can be about normal," she said. "We are in an unfortunate part of country where El Niño doesn't provide us with a lot of predictive capacity for the winter."
Northern Nevada has experienced some very wet El Niño winters, such as 1996-97, 1982-83 and 1957-58. McAfee said that it has also seen some very dry winters, including in 1991-92, during the middle of the last severe multi-year drought.
"The strength of an El Niño can influence the amount of moisture we get in the winter, but it's not like a knob or dial where the stronger the El Niño, the more water we'll get."