Series: El Niño In Wisconsin

The climatic cycle known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, exerts a powerful but irregular influence on weather around the world. Climatologists predicted that 2015 could be a record year for El Niño, given surface water temperature warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean — one of the key indicators of the cycle. Its impact in Wisconsin is indirect but causes general warmer conditions in winter — while other parts of the world can see droughts, floods, and massive food insecurity. But El Niño can still cause challenges for Wisconsin farmers, tourism, logging, and wildlife. The cycle is highly unpredictable, and scientists are still trying to understand how it interacts with global climate change.
ENSO sea level comparison, 1997 and 2015
The El Niño of 1997-98 was historic, but no two ENSO events are alike, nor are their weather effects in any given location, thanks to differences in how Pacific Ocean waters warm.
Wood frog
The El Niño that started in early 2015 and is affecting global weather patterns could be less than idyllic for Wisconsin wildlife adapted to snowy conditions.
Winter wheat
Agriculture depends entirely on weather, with its uncertainties affecting the fortunes of all people, from small farmers to consumers, as the global market shifts food prices.
An El Niño winter with warmer temperatures and possibly less precipitation than average could pose a challenge for some Wisconsin recreation and tourism businesses, although many already have been adapting to uncertain winters with less snow.
An El Niño event can alter economic fortunes worldwide, particularly in agriculture. But other industries can be affected too, including energy, forestry, sales and transportation.
El Niño and anthropogenic climate change aren't the same thing, and climatologists stress each phenomenon’s individual effects on weather patterns and occurrences shouldn't be conflated.
Spanish for "The Niño"
The following reports and resources are excellent starting points for grasping the fundamental aspects of ENSO, and opportunities to delve deeper into specific facets of this important and fascinating phenomenon.
Winter tundra along ice age trail
Much of Wisconsin is experiencing a very warm autumn so far, with temperatures higher than average in both September and October. One factor that might be influencing these balmy conditions is El Niño, a recurring global weather pattern that can result in warmer winters for Wisconsin.
Lake Mendota
Whether looking forward to ice fishing season, crossing fingers for a rare journey to Lake Superior's sea caves on the shores of Bayfield County or just enduring the long cold months of winter, chances are the dates that lakes freeze and thaw are one mark by which one can measure the season in Wisconsin.
El Niño forecast
Predictions about the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle and the complexity of the phenomenon itself can easily create confusion about its impacts on weather and the economy in the U.S. and around the world.