What will the El Niño weather pattern mean for Las Vegas?
The weather in Southern Nevada is more unpredictable than ever — Tropical Storm Hilary proved that in August.
So we never really know what’s coming. But this winter, scientists are predicting an El Niño weather pattern. If that holds, what’s it mean? More rain? Colder weather? Warming weather? More snow in the Rocky Mountains, which feeds Lake Mead?
Here to help us make sense of it all is interim state climatologist Tom Albright. He’s also an associate professor in UNR’s Department of Geology.
In short: You might want to shake off that umbrella and winter coat regardless of where in Nevada you live.
"It's still pretty early," says Albright. "And if you look at our outlook for the next three months, or at least through December, it's not a super strong pattern in terms of precipitation in Northern Nevada. But there is an expectation for more precipitation in Southern Nevada. But as we get farther in the winter, watch what NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is saying about El Niño. If it becomes clear that it's going to be a strong El Nino, which is very possible — or a historically strong, like one of the strongest on record — then I would prepare for big snow [in the north]. I would absolutely prepare for that. And that also goes for high precipitation conditions down south as well."
And what may be causing unpredictable — and sometimes extreme — weather patterns? A leading culprit is — you guessed it — climate change.
"Climate change does add an interesting and potentially alarming wrinkle to it when you consider all the additional heat energy that's in our ocean waters right now," says Albright. "I think it's likely that that strengthened Hurricane Otis."
Guest: Tom Albright, interim Nevada climatologist and associate professor, department of geography, UNR