Expert says it's too soon to tell if El Niño is coming next winter

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 3/13/2014 9:01 am
RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- This winter isn't over for another week, but people are already looking ahead to next winter.

Reports that El Niño is on its way are spreading quickly, but a local expert says it is too soon to say if the drought is coming to an end. "The drought is getting worse and El Niño generally conjures up images of heavy precipitation," said Chris Smallcomb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Those images may be more of a hope than a reality.

Smallcomb said reports of an El Niño winter coming are just speculation. "It's way too premature at this point to say with any confidence that we are going to have El Niño," he said.

Smallcomb said they use complex computer models to forecast into the future, but the further out, the less reliable the predictions. "This is an area of our science that is still emerging and there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to better understand how the atmosphere works on monthly scales," Smallcomb said.

In certain areas, El Niño and La Niña weather is easier to forecast, but in northern Nevada, Smallcomb said the climate is more variable, and El Niño winters have seen both above and below average precipitation.

"If it happens it may deliver a wet winter, which I think certainly everybody here would love, but then again it may not," Smallcomb said.

He said people need to be ready for another dry winter, just in case. "Even if we did have an El Niño, which that by itself is uncertain, there's no guarantees that it would get us out of the drought situation," Smallcomb said.
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