It was warm, but mercifully wet, in Oklahoma during the traditional cool season that ended this spring. More moisture could be coming Oklahoma's way next winter, but with colder temperatures as a companion.
The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center issued an El Nino watch last week because of warmer than normal waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
The El Nino phenomenon typically means colder and wetter than normal conditions in Oklahoma from the following October to March, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist.
La Nina, which occurs due to cooler than normal water temperatures and is the opposite of El Nino, was in effect during the last two winters.
The likelihood of El Nino occurring this winter is about 50 percent, with lesser chances for neutral water temperatures or a slide back into La Nina.
“It does look like it's going to continue to warm up down there,” McManus said.
El Nino's effects here usually come from storms that form in the Pacific, McManus said.
“I always remember when we had an El Nino, (former “The Tonight Show” host) Johnny Carson would be making jokes about all the rich people washing away on the coast,” McManus said.
“Those storms come in off the coast of California, and then they just track straight across the West, across the southern part of the United States.”
El Nino is also a welcome sign for Oklahoma residents who enjoy ski vacations in New Mexico, Colorado and the rest of the southern Rocky Mountains.
The phenomenon typically means lots of snowfall to keep ski areas in good shape in that part of the country.
But El Nino and La Nina don't always bring the expected effects to a particular area, McManus said.
During the first of the recent pair of La Nina winters here, Oklahoma had one of its driest winters on record, as is expected when La Nina occurs.
But last winter was wet enough to break the stranglehold of one of the strongest droughts in decades.
“It was actually a miraculous recovery from the drought for much of the state,” McManus said.
“It doesn't always go by Mother Nature's script.”