Experimental real-time weather forecasts, which incorporate satellite observations of snow cover into a prediction model, have been more on-target in their winter forecasts than those of major government forecast centers in both the U.S. and Europe.
A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded collaborative research effort between Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. (AER Inc., www.aer.com ), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (www.mit.edu) has led to a new understanding of the relationship between fall snow cover and winter climate variability.
Forecast centers often rely heavily on links between surface temperatures and precipitation patterns around the globe. However, the usefulness of this approach in seasonal climate prediction is limited by the frequency of significant El Nino events, which occur only once every 4-5 years. The predictive skill of El Nino-based temperature forecasts outside of the tropics often has been far off the mark.
El Nino means 'the boy' or 'Christ Child' in Spanish. The weather phenomenon called El Nino was so named for its tendency to arrive around Christmastime. Unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean heralds the arrival of an El Nino.
El Nino is a disruption of Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific Ocean, with consequences for weather around the globe. Increased rainfall across the southern tier of the U.S. and in Peru result in extreme flooding in these areas, and in drought in the western Pacific region, as well as widespread fires in Australia. In recent decades, El Nino has occurred in more rapid succession than in the past, a development possibly linked to global climate change. The most recent El Nino occurred during the winter of of 2009-2010.