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El Nino could bring better weather to Southeast Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The weather in Southeast Alaska could be warmer and drier this summer because of the development of El Nino a hemisphere away.

Chris Maier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Juneau, recently completed an analysis of El Nino climate data for the past 50 years. He said the study shows that most of the time when Southeast Alaska is transitioning into an El Nino cycle, the weather is warmer and drier than normal.

Maier used data from Juneau, Annette Island, Sitka and Wrangell from 12 years in which El Nino conditions were developing, dating back to 1949.

He found that March and April tended to be cooler than average with near-normal precipitation in El Nino-developing years, while May brought average temperatures and slightly below-normal precipitation.

June saw cooler temperatures and near-normal rainfall. However, in July and August, Maier found noticeably warmer and drier conditions.

In Juneau, average monthly precipitation during El Nino-developing years was just over three-quarters of an inch below the 50-year average for each of those months.

Average monthly temperatures in Juneau were nearly a degree above normal.

El Nino is a cyclical global weather phenomenon that starts when water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean's tropical regions rise enough to alter ocean currents, which in turn alter the jet stream and lead to changes in weather patterns.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this month that observations indicate another El Nino event is starting to occur. El Nino events occur about every four or five years and can last up to 18 months, impacting the United States in ways that typically include fewer Atlantic hurricanes, higher winter precipitation totals in the South, and drier fall and winter seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

The last El Nino occurred in 1997-98.

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