A strong El Nino in the Pacific will set the stage for much of winter weather in the country this time around, but will it impact New Jersey?

Sunshine over LBI while snow remains on the beach
Sunshine over LBI while snow remains on the beach (Harvey Cedars Police)

"The driver of this year's winter outlook is El Nino," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Halpert says it could mean above average temps here, but also more moisture. He says this season's El Nino could be the strongest since one that occurred in 1997-98. He believes it could be "among the three strongest since the 1950s."

Will it mean more snow? State Climatologist Dave Robinson of Rutgers says past El Ninos in Jersey have gone both ways.

"If I sound ambivalent about this, it is because that is just the El Nino signal in New jersey. It is not a profoundly strong signal in the mid-Atlantic, as opposed to some other parts of the nation," Robinson said.

According to Robinson, there are two wild cards out there for this El Nino winter in New Jersey. One is that pool of warm water out in the north Pacific Ocean, that has actually helped contribute to the last two winters being so cold in eastern north America. Robinson says, "that pool of warm water is still there. So that could, at times, overide the El Nino signal coming out of the tropics."

Wild card number two is the fact that we are warmer in New Jersey in the last decade than we were in any of the previous strong El Ninos.

"So we are starting with a warmer baseline in which to have the El Nino event unfold," Robinson said.

Robinson also has another concern involving El Nino.

"More nor'easter activities, these coastal storms. They tend to be more prevalent in El Nino winters," he said.

Robinson is worried about that, "because with the pounding the coast took, the heavy beach erosion just of two weeks ago, the coastal defenses have already been eaten away as we enter the storm season, the coastal storm season."

Robinson sees a lot of volatility in this winter climate, but nothing too extreme in terms of cold and snow. And he does not believe this El Nino winter will be as cold or as snowy as the past two have been in New Jersey. But he also reinforces NOAA's statement that there are no guarantees because of the many other, varied weather forces at play that can influence New Jersey's season.


Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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