POCATELLO, Idaho - The National Weather Service is looking ahead to winter, and early signs indicate we may have an El Nino. An El Nino is something that could affect the snowpack this upcoming winter, according to Vernon Preston with the NWS.
"An El Nino forms when warm water surfaces off the coast of South America around Christmas time," said Preston, the warning coordination meteorologist. "El Nino is basically an ocean current that affects our weather patterns globally."
El Nino affects water temperatures closer to the surface of the ocean. It's when warm water is closer to the surface and cuts off access to cooler water where fish feed, in turn causing problems for the fishing industry. But for Idaho?
"Here in Eastern Idaho, typically in an El Nino pattern, we end up being a little bit warmer than normal during the wintertime and then our precipitation chances vary," Preston said. "Over the last 17 El Ninos, our snowpack has actually been below normal for 12 of them."
Preston said water managers are preparing by storing more water in higher elevations, like the Snake River Basins.
"You look at Jackson Reservoir and Palisades compared to American Falls and they actually have a lot of water still in them compared to last year," Preston said. "I think that's in anticipation to this El Nino developing."
Preston also said we haven't had an El Nino event in three years, and an El Nino is typically a long-term occurrence rather than a one-time storm.