Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – In agriculture, Mother Nature is often the decider of success or hardship.

El Niño is one of the many natural phenomena that can affect farming. Returning this year for the first time in seven years, El Niño is a formidable player when it comes to weather.

El Niño occurs along the equator, off the coast of Peru in South America. Usually, the trade winds at the equator move from east to west. In North America, our westerlies come from the west, moving east. During El Niño, the trade winds weaken.

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Meteorologist David Spence explains what happens next.

“Once those trade winds start to falter and weaken, you get the warm water that’s normally parked around Indonesia and Australia, backing up toward the coast of South America. That warms the water in the Pacific, which changes the temperatures and air pressure patterns, pushing the jet stream to the north, and warm air floods into our area, and we end up with warmer and drier than average conditions.”

Does that guarantee a warmer winter? Spence notes no two El Niño’s are the same, and you can still expect blustery and cold winter days ahead.

“There will be days, maybe even weeks of cold weather. It will probably get to minus 30 at some point. It is going to snow. But overall, in the big picture, over a series of months that include winter, the overall effect will be toward warming and drying conditions.”

The effects of El Niño will likely begin in November and continue through January and possibly beyond. While warmer and drier weather is the general outcome in the Prairies, British Columbia will likely have a more rainy and wetter winter.

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