The chance that the emergence of an El Nino this fall and winter will ease the severe drought conditions in the Plains is diminishing.
The latest data show neutral conditions in the equatorial Pacific and perhaps the development of a very weak El Nino.
That is disappointing to Kansans, who historically have seen warmer and wetter than normal winters during an El Nino, which is marked by warm waters in the equatorial Pacific and dry winters during a La Nina event, which is marked by a cooling of the sea surface in that region.
A strong La Nina has been in place for the last several years, a condition that historically brings the kind of heat and drought Kansas has experienced in the last two years.
In September, the trend toward a developing El Nino slowed, leading forecasters at the national Climate Prediction Center to predict that it may not emerge, or if it does, that it will be weak.
"Compared to the past few months, the chance is reduced for El Niño to develop during Northern Hemisphere fall/winter 2012-13," reads the October forecast discussion. "Due to the recent slowdown in the development of El Nino, it is not clear whether a fully coupled El Niño will emerge. The majority of models indicate that borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions will continue, and about half suggest that El Niño could develop, but remain weak. The official forecast therefore favors the continuation of borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, with the possibility of strengthening during the next few months."
Consistent with that prediction, the three-month long-range forecast calls for warmer and drier conditions than normal across Kansas and most of the Plains.
All of Kansas remains in drought on the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, with 78% of the state in the worst two categories, extreme and exceptional drought. In Nebraska, conditions are even worse, with 95% of the state in the worst two categories.