Sun Belt Weather for 2015–2016: Watch Out for “Godzilla” El Niño

Heard enough about freaky weather lately? Well, there’s more you need to know, especially if you’re heading south for all or part of the winter. And it mostly has to do with El Niño—the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon that cycles in every two to seven years and dominates northern hemisphere weather patterns for months at a time.

This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting one of the strongest El Niño seasons ever recorded. Some of the experts who track these phenomena have even begun describing the forthcoming El Niño as the Godzilla of El Niños. But even they admit that the weather is a fickle master, and it can change in an instant.

If there were an overview we might give you now, it would be the following: regardless where you are going in the Sun Belt, take your umbrellas along. And for most areas, you’re going to need a sweater, too. Chuckle if you will, but those of us who live in the Sun Belt are looking forward to that (the sweaters, not the umbrellas…).

We have checked out several sources (most of them citing NOAA data) to pull together the following regional capsules. But remember, these are only predictions, albeit predictions based on the best scientific models available.

Southern California

There is a 95% chance of drenching rain events through to spring in most of southern California from the Mexican border up to the mid-state, over to Hemet, and possibly even as far inland as Palm Springs, where many Canadians spend the winter. Temperatures are expected to be above average in most of the state. California is in the midst of a years-long devastating drought, so there may be a silver lining in those predictions after all.

Central and southern Arizona

Think Sun City, Mesa, Gilbert, Apache Junction, and the entire East Valley. Pretty consistent predictions call for average to below-average temperatures, with heavy rain events through the season, well into spring. Sedona and Flagstaff are likely to see a good deal of snow.

South Texas

In the lower Rio Grande Valley, bordering Mexico and extending up from South Padre Island to Weslaco, Donna, Harlingen, and McAllen, you will need your umbrellas and ponchos this winter. Most reliable predictions call for wet, and wetter, weather, and temperatures well below average. But, as you know, you might get a lot of rain, but then it breaks, and you get a lot of sun, too.

Florida and the Gulf Coast

Florida as well is expected to have cooler-than-average temperatures this winter, and predictions are also calling for some severe weather events throughout the southeast area and the Gulf Coast. No hurricanes at this time of year, though. Some tornadoes are possible, but Florida tornadoes are not like those giant Oklahoma or Missouri beasts.

Stay with us the entire season. We’ll bring you weather prediction updates as they happen.

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