El Nino to blame for N.C.'s extra cold winter

Posted February 26, 2010 10:09 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2010 6:29 p.m. EST

— Below normal temperatures and bouts with flurries are not typical for the Triangle.

“It truly is the coldest temperatures we have had in 30 years,” said Ryan Boyles, director of the State Climate Office.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said two out of every three days this winter has seen below normal temperatures.

Back-to-back winter storms brought snow and wintry mixes to the central North Carolina in recent weeks.

The frequency and severity of this year’s winter can be attributed to the climate pattern El Nino, Boyles said.

“We tend to have colder, cooler events during El Nino,” he said.

El Nino is also getting help from arctic oscillation, which has helped bring some cold air down from Canada, Fishel said.

“So it is much easier for it to intrude into the United States than normal,” he said.

It is hard to predict how much longer North Carolina will be in the cold, but experts say not to pack away winter coats just yet.

“Into March and into April, we will see more days where it is nice, warm weather, but we will have some cold ones in there,” Boyles said.

If El Nino stays late enough in the year, experts say it could help ward off hurricanes.