DENVER (CBS4) – After weeks of monitoring for the potential development of El Niño, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an active episode on Thursday.
El Niño is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean which can have an impact on global climate patterns.
Government forecasters say while they except El Niño to remain weak, there’s a 50-60 percent chance that it could last into the summer.
NOAA scientists say a weak El Niño typically has no widespread or significant global impacts, but say some places in the Northern Hemisphere could see localized affects.
During El Niño episodes, the storm track across the United States tends to shift south during the spring and summer, bringing the chance for increased precipitation to much of the west.
In Colorado, conditions tend to be wetter and warmer-than-average.
With the current episode being weak it’s unclear what the next few months hold in store for the central Rockies.
The latest 3-month outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center on Feb. 19 projects Colorado to have near average temperatures and above average precipitation for March, April and May.
An active spring would be great news for Colorado’s snowpack after a fairly dry winter.
While conditions have improved significantly since mid-February, especially in the southern river basins, we’re still running a bit behind where we should be.
As of Mar. 5 snowpack levels in southern Colorado were running 77-90 percent of the median.
They were at 57-65 percent just two weeks ago.