El Nino and the Garden

In case you missed it, this is an El Nino year. NOAA tells us that this quirky climate phenomenon is now strengthening and could become what it calls a “moderate” event. El Nino is caused by a combination of changes in the trade winds and unusually warm water in the Equatorial Pacific.  For a more detailed explanation, click here.

Basically, it’s all about sea surface temperature. That “SST” affects the weather on land,  so it is helpful to keep an eye on changing SST patterns so we can garden accordingly. So will the coming winter be warmer, wetter, cooler or drier? It depends on where you live.


Here in southern New England, climate scientists say they don’t know how El Nino will affect our temperatures or precipitation. Our winter might be “average,” or we could experience some fluctuations. The only prediction I could find pointed to a slightly warmer, and perhaps wetter winter ahead.

Here’s the  latest “official” forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center:

For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above-average precipitation along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, and below-average precipitation for the Pacific Northwest.  Other potential impacts include a continued suppression of Atlantic hurricane activity, along with above-average temperatures and below-average snowfall for the Northern Plains.”

In Rhode Island, we will take our usual winter precautions. Years ago, we could depend on a nice cozy blanket of snow to protect our flowerbeds, but that is no longer the case. Many gardeners now use various windbreaks, mulches, conifer boughs and leaves for insulation. At this point, we don’t know how El Nino will affect us, if at all, so we will adapt as the winter progresses and hope for the best.winteroutlook_temp_300

Other parts of the country could experience  more severe weather events. Gardeners on the  Gulf Coast should prepare for rain, and possibly lots  of it. It looks like the Northern Plains could be dry, so gardeners there should probably give their trees and shrubs – especially the evergreens –  a good watering before the freeze.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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