As you’re undoubtedly aware, a powerful El Niño is expected to exert heavy-handed authority over our weather this winter. And before I go any further, please, please, please remember El Niño is NOT a weather phenomenon. It’s the name given to a particular Pacific Ocean temperature regime. El Niño exerts an influence on weather patterns, but is not in and of itself a weather event.
Okay, glad we got that straightened out. Anyhow, with a chiller- and wetter-than-average cool season looming for much of the Southeast (see graphics below) due to El Niño’s impact, I got to wondering if that meant there might be a greater chance than usual for ice and snow in the land of cotton and kudzu.
Commercial break here:
I wrote a novel called BLIZZARD that’s set in Atlanta, north Georgia, and the western Carolinas. Naturally, I’d love to see the deviant musings of my warped imagination come to fruition.
Turns out I may or may not. Since 1950, there have been five El Niños classifed as strong or very strong, i.e., similar to the current one. Only two of them correlated with significant wintry weather in and around Atlanta.
One of the winters was that of 1972-73. A significant ice storm paralyzed Atlanta in January of ’73. That was followed by a near miss by a big snowstorm when a wintry blitz dropped in excess of a foot across central Georgia (Columbus-Macon-Augusta) in February. That storm, by the way, is mentioned in BLIZZARD.
The other snowy El Niño thumbprint came during the winter of 1982-83 when a late-season storm dumped a sloppy eight inches on Atlanta in March ’83.
So, two winters out of five. Not overwhelming odds for Currier & Ives nostalgia in the Deep South. It’s more likely you’ll need your umbrella than a snow shovel over the next several months, and that you’ll have to get your wintry thrills vicariously . . . you know where I’m going with this, right?
There, now that that’s out of the way, let me say this: There’s another type of El Niño-influenced weather phenomenon, also related to one of my novels, that we in the Southeast should perhaps be more concerned with than ice or snow. I’ll blog about that next week.