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El Niño - Monthly Comparisons by City

Cold and warm episodes of ENSO are defined by CPC when the threshold of +/- 0.5 C for the Oceanic Nino Index (3 month running average of sea surface temperatures between 5 deg N-5 deg S, 120-170 deg W) is met for a minimum of 5 consecutive over-lapping seasons.

(temperature departures from 1971-2000 30 year normal)

Weak El Niño 0.5-1.0° C ... Moderate El Niño 1.0-1.5° C ... Strong El Niño 1.5° C and warmer


Weak El Niño events have shown the least amount of influence on wintertime temperature departures in Buffalo, with a tendency for temperatures to actually average below normal during the second half of the winter season. Meanwhile, moderate to strong El Niño events typically produce above normal temperatures. This is especially the case during December when temperatures have averaged 3.5 deg F above normal during moderate El Niños and over 5 deg F during strong El Niños.

El Niños during the month of November typically have little influence on temperatures in Rochester. This dramatically changes as winter sets in. Moderate to strong El Niño events are shown to typically produce above normal temperatures, while the weak events tend to produce below normal temperatures. Like Buffalo and Watertown, weak El Niños produce their coldest conditions during weak February events.

Moderate to strong El Niños help to produce warmer than normal conditions in Watertown during the bulk of the winter season. This is especially the case in December when temperatures during strong events average more than 5 deg F above normal! Conversely, weak El Niño events have shown to have a greater negative effect on temperatures than those in Rochester and Buffalo. While all three cities exhibit below normal average temperatures during weak El Niños in second half of winter, mercury readings in Watertown average about 2 degrees F below normal.

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Page last modified: October 07, 2004
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