El Nino could return, bring changes to Carolinas

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Half a degree.  That doesn't sound like much, but that's a huge difference when we talk about the Equatorial Pacific.  In the next six months, El Nino conditions will likely return, and bring with it worldwide changes.

The Pacific is the world's largest ocean and a small change in temperature there has world wide implications.

El Nino is used to describe warmer ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.  This causes a shift in the Jet Stream, which drops further South over the Eastern United States.  This southward position of the jet results in an increase in wind shear in the tropical locations where hurricanes form.  This strong shear can rip these infant storms apart.  For those that do form, they are more likely to track off the coast, curving back outward into the Atlantic.

In the summer, that doesn't mean much for the Carolinas.  Ryan Boyle, North Carolina State Climatologist says summers in our area aren't really affected by the changes in Equatorial Pacific temperatures.  "NWS Climate Prediction Center outlook has equal chances of below-, near-, and above-normal precipitation this summer."  Simply put, anything could happen in the next three months.

Typically, most of our summertime precipitation comes from pop-up showers and thunderstorms in the late afternoon and early evening.  Coverage is usually spotty, and the summer months are typically the driest.

However, we're looking at seeing this effect six months out.  The Carolinas feel the effects of El Nino more in winter, when it tends to result in a wetter cool season.