El Niño Is Coming To Take Over Your Invierno — Here’s What You Can Expect

(Mandatory viewing whenever this subject comes up)

Everybody loves a good El Niño cycle. The periodic ocean-warming event that promises rainy Christmases to families all along the West Coast has already been gaining strength over the past several weeks (and depositing poisonous snakes on California’s beaches, too). According to Outside Online, this year’s El Niño cycle is already among the top three ever recorded in regards to the impact it’s had on ocean temperatures—a major indicator of all things El Niño—and might even surpass The Big One of ’97-’98. Another perspective: Deputy director of NOAA’s climate prediction center Mike Halpert says, “The driver of this winter’s outlook is El Niño.”

What does this mean for the average American dreaming of a white Christmas… er, holiday season? Not too much, if you live on the eastern side of the country. But for the West-Coasters and Rocky Mountain-dwellers, the outlook is drizzly. Get it? Rain — that’s what it will mean.

This is good news for California and its ongoing drought, sort of. Because yeah, it needs the rain desperately. The most current forecasts for this winter predict just that: lots of rain during the first three months of 2016, California’s core rainy-season months. But rain also tends to bring bad stuff with it, like mudslides and flooding. Also, El Niño will also mean warmer temperatures for California this winter, which means less snowpack at the regular elevations — and snowmelt is what California’s thirsty reservoirs depend on.

Up in the Pacific Northwest, which is itself suffering from a drought, the winter actually looks like it might be warmer and drier than usual, with the whole less-snowpack thing causing the same problems as in California.

As for the Rocky Mountain states? They’ll be variable, with the northern Rockies keeping warm with fewer blasts of cold from the Arctic, and the southern Rockies getting hit with the brunt of the storm system and all its ensuing precipitation. Read: lots of snow.

So, good news for ski bums: The southern Rockies are where you want to be at this winter. As for the rest of us? We’ll just stay inside with our hot cocoa and sing our Irving Berlin carols.

(Via Outside Online, The Weather Channel)