Thanks to El Nino, U.S. looks pretty wet this winter

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Southeast Michigan will be warmer and see less snowfall this winter, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

We can thank El Nino again.

“Typically when El Nino is active, it means at least a mild start for the winter for the Great Lakes,” said Bryan Tilley, meteorologist with the weather service in White Lake Township.

That means above normal temperatures at the beginning of winter, he said, “due to El Nino being active in the Pacific.”

The start of the season could be similar to the winter of 2011-12, which generated 26 inches of rain and snowfall, and an average daily temperatures of 5 degrees above normal in January and February. March had average temperatures of 15 degrees above normal.

Tilley only would make a loose comparison to the early part of the season and December 2011, however.

“So much of what happens during the January, February and March portion of the season depends on how things turn out in other parts of the country in November, December,” he said.

Rainfall is expected to be average for Metro Detroit.

And despite what may seem counterintuitive, the warmer weather may be a plus for Michigan’s ski resorts after last winter’s brutal temperatures, where Metro Detroit saw nine days in February with below zero temperatures.

“(Last winter) we had some really cold temperatures where we had to close, it was so bitterly cold,” said Gail Winterhalter, operations manager for Alphine Valley in White Lake. “If it’s going to be a little bit warmer, good. I think we’ll sit back and wait. Everybody’s got their own theories of what’s going to happen.”

Winterhalter said the resort makes its own snow at the beginning of the season as long as temperatures are at or below 27 degrees.

“We’ll be there whether Mother Nature helps us a little or we’ll make it on our own,” she said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s three-month outlook for Michigan for January through March predicted a higher probability of above normal temperatures for lower and upper Michigan.

The average temperature for Metro Detroit in December is 36.1; from January to March they are 32, 35.2 and 45.8, respectively.

In much of the rest of the country, El Nino will leave a big wet, but not necessarily snowy, footprint, according to the winter forecast the NOAA issued Thursday.

“The driver of this winter’s outlook is El Nino,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

El Nino changes weather worldwide, mostly affecting the United States in winter. The weather pattern happens every few years when the Pacific Ocean warms up around the equator.

Associated Press contributed.