El Nino may bring a wet winter to Utah

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    By CHRIS ONSTOTT

    Weather watchers are bracing as El Nino, the weather pattern wreaking havoc throughout the world, continues to grow.

    Although El Nino’s affects are not usually as severe in North America as in South America, most of the U.S. will be affected by the weather pattern in varying degrees. According to Bill Alder, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake, the entire state of Utah may suffer above average rainfall this winter.

    “Usually the Southwest including parts of Southern Utah suffer the most severe affects of an El Nino,” Alder said. “This El Nino is a pretty strong event, and it may come farther north and affect all of Utah.”

    Although final figures are still not in for September precipitation in Utah, Alder said most of the state is well above normal, with some areas setting new records. Kanab smashed records this month with 8.92 inches. Kanab reported total rainfall for August and September of 12.99 inches — .32 inches below their average yearly total.

    “We’ve had a lot of monsoon moisture come up this summer. I would attribute that to El Nino,” Alder said.

    El Nino is caused by warming of water off the coast of Peru, it tends to push warmer water closer to the West Coast of the U.S. causing above average rainfall. According to Don Griffith, Vice President and General Manager of TRC North American Weather Consultants, this El Nino may be the strongest in quite a while.

    “This El Nino may be the strongest in 50 years,” Griffith said. “Long range weather models are not very good so it’s hard to know really what to expect from this.”

    Utahns living below 5,000 feet may experience a wetter, milder winter than usual, especially if the state continues to receive westerly winds blowing off the warmer pacific, Alder said.

    Students have mixed feelings about El Nino and its effects.

    “I like rain. It’s a nice change from San Diego where it doesn’t rain as much,” said Sarah Fowers of San Diego, Calif.

    “The rain messes up plans and gets my car dirty, but I don’t mind it that much,” said Matt Jolley of Lindon.

    Students will have to wait until late October to see how much of Utah will be strongly affected by El Nino, Alder said.

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