Colder temps - and maybe even snow - for Christmas weekend

KINGMAN - The National Weather Service is forecasting lower temperatures and snow levels down to the 3,000-foot level in parts of the Mohave Desert over Christmas weekend.

A strong area of low pressure is coming through the region today and Christmas Day, bringing gusty winds and colder temperatures through the weekend, the weather service reported.

Currently, precipitation looks to be light with the best chance occurring between Christmas Eve afternoon and Christmas morning, when snow could fall on areas of higher elevations of Mohave County.

Snow levels are expected to start around 4,000 feet, lowering to 2,800 to 3,200 feet. Forecasters aren't sure how much snow will fall, but they say it will be widespread. Little to no accumulation of snow is expected.

Last year, Kingman received about 6 inches of snow on New Year's Eve.

The National Weather Service continues to predict a stronger El Nino than usual, and has upgraded the weather system to possibly the strongest on record.

The current El Nino has surpassed the 1997-98 event in terms of strength based on sea surface temperatures in the area of the equator in the Pacific Ocean used to compute El Nino's strength.

The weather agency previously predicted this year's El Nino will rank as one of the strongest on record, matching episodes from 1972-73, 1982-83, 1991-92 and 1997-98.

It's important to note that no two El Nino events are alike, said Dan Berc, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Las Vegas. Impacts vary greatly from one El Nino to the next, he said.

"To clarify the first bullet (point) in the El Nino update, the current El Nino has not officially surpassed the 1997-98 event in strength as we measure it," Berc said.

The Oceanic Nino Index is a three-month running average of sea surface temperature anomalies. Berc told the Daily Miner that the equatorial temperature is running 2 degrees Celsius above normal, and anything 1½ degree or higher portends a strong El Nino.

The bullet was referencing the current weekly anomaly, which is in excess of the 1997-98 index, Berc said.

"We will not have data until late after the winter to be able to accurately compare this El Nino event to others in a historical perspective," he said.

The current El Nino has just about peaked in strength, or will do so within the next month, and then is expected to start to weaken with conditions returning to neutral.

Warm weather has prevailed in the Great Lakes and Northeast and these areas have had a dearth of snow so far. However, the West Coast has seen conditions reversed, with Oregon and northern California seeing wet conditions and the Southwest being dry.

Kingman received just 0.35 inch of rain in November, and has recorded 0.19 inch through Dec. 18, compared with 0.86 inch a year ago.

There are thoughts that dry conditions in the Southwest are due to feedback into the jet stream caused by fewer thunderstorms in parts of the equatorial Pacific, especially in the far eastern sections during October.