What is Driving Wetter Than Normal Weather in Ohio? Look to the Pacific Ocean.

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When you think about what drives weather most people are familiar with terms like the jet stream, high and low pressure systems, and fronts, but there is a greater cause that affects weather in Ohio that many people are unaware of, the Pacific Ocean.

That’s right, the Pacific Ocean has a very large influence on our weather not only here in Ohio, but the rest of the United States. The reason for this is due to trade winds off the coast of Peru and ocean temperature patterns, also known as El Niño and La Niña.

El Niño and La Niña are climate patterns that occur in the Pacific Ocean from the Western Coast of South America and the Eastern Coast of Australia. The strength of the trade winds off the coast of Peru affect whether we are in an El Niño or La Niña state.

Since 2016, we have been in a La Niña state. During La Niña, stronger trade winds blowing west keep warmer waters closer to Australia and brings up colder water from the seafloor near the coast of Peru.

During La Niña, here in Ohio, we typically have warmer, wetter weather conditions while the Southern United States have drier conditions. This past winter we were under La Niña conditions thus the warmer and rainier conditions.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued an El Niño advisory indicating that we are beginning the transitional period to an El Niño state. Warmer sea temperatures in the Pacific indicate El Niño conditions.

El Niño means that weaker trade winds off of Peru is allowing warmer water from Australia to move eastward towards the Americas. The warmer waters that is now present supplies the atmosphere with more moisture. This means wetter conditions for the southern United States along with cooler temperatures.

We also have very warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico supplying even more moisture to the atmosphere. On top of all of this, the United States is experiencing unusually cold temperatures to our northwest as well as very warm temperatures in the southeast. The extreme difference in temperatures has created a stronger than normal jet stream. A stronger jet stream would therefore mean more storms and more rain being brought right to Ohio.

The El Niño advisory is in effect for the remainder of the summer. The CPC says this is expected to be a weak El Niño and has lower odds of continuing through the fall and winter months, indicating that La Niña may return later this year. It is very rare for an El Niño to last for such a short period of time. Usually an El Niño lasts between two and seven years while La Niña lasts nine to 12 months. This would mean that El Niño is expected to possibly come back stronger next year and could stick around for a while.