El Niño forecast points to mild winter and drier spring
Annual rainfall for 2023 at one Linn County location was about 7 inches shy of the 20-year average.
Here on our tree farm, located in the foothills about five miles east of Lebanon, the 2023 calendar year was much drier than other years. We have been recording precipitation since 2002. The 39.70 inches recorded in 2023 was well below our 47.17 inch average.
Calendar year totals have ranged from 62.33 inches in 2013 to 35.21 inches in 2014.
It is not unusual to trade a wet year for a dry year. December 2023 made a valiant effort at a comeback with 9.17 inches, the fifth wettest December since 2002.
Some say it always rains in Oregon. We recorded precipitation on 180 days of 2023 — which is only 49 percent of the time.
The U.S. Drought monitor for Jan 4, 2024 shows the valley area of Linn County is in moderate drought while the foothills and Cascades are shown as abnormally dry.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center expects El Niño to persist through the winter then transition to ENSO-neutral next spring, according to a Dec. 14 forecast.
The most recent data favors El Niño to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter, according to the NOAA forecast.
Based on the latest forecasts, there is now a 54 percent chance of a “historically strong” El Niño during the November-January season. An event of this strength would potentially be in the top-five of El Niño events since 1950.
While stronger El Niño events increase the likelihood of El Niño-related climate anomalies, the NOAA forecast noted, it does not imply expected impacts will emerge in all locations or be of strong intensity for probabilities of temperature and precipitation.
In summary, El Niño is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter, with a 60 percent chance to transition to ENSO-neutral favored during April-June 2024.
For Oregon, the “bottom line" forecast from Oregon Department of Forestry issued Dec. 21 calls for “a relatively mild winter … below average rain and snow north with near-average rain and snow south.”