Could El Nino Mean Drought For Tennessee? (283)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — El Nino could contribute to a hotter, drier than normal summer in Tennessee, a University of Tennessee climatologist said Tuesday.

 Dr. Joanne Logan said the El Nino in the winter of 1982-83 preceded a five-year period of drought-like summers in Tennessee. That El Nino and the current one are the strongest on record, she said.

 “The most curious thing about the last strong El Nino that we had back in 1982-83, was that it was followed by a very intense, five-year dry spell that was very unusual,” Logan said. “It might have been coincidence, but more climatologists will be looking for a potential connection after the current El Nino ends.”

 El Nino is a shift in wind and ocean patterns that occurs every few years and changes global weather.

 Logan, an associate professor of plant and soil science, said not enough is known about El Ninos before 1960 to link them to hot, dry weather trends in Tennessee. Doing so would be difficult anyway because the state’s precipitation varies so much, she said.

 “Average rainfall for Knoxville is about 52 inches per year, but we usually have either much more or much less,” Logan said. “It is difficult to tell whether we have more or less because of El Nino.”

 Logan said the Climate Diagnostic Center of the National Weather Service forecasts drier than normal weather in Tennessee for May, June and July.

 That could be evidence of a connection between El Nino and Tennessee summer weather, she said.

 “It (hot, dry weather) would give us positive concerns about the two strongest El Ninos on record being followed by prolonged warmer, drier conditions,” Logan said. “If May starts to get really dry, that is probably a pretty good signal.”

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 Contact: Dr. Joanne Logan (423-974-8803)