Pleasant weather might be a sign of a mild winter to come

LAKE STEVENS — Chad Squire planned a trip to Maui for the last week of September because he thought the weather here would have turned wet by then.

While there, he checked the weather and saw that it was still sunny in the Northwest.

“We should have gone in January,” said Squire, 25, as he walked his dog Miley on Wednesday in the sun at North Cove Park in Lake Stevens.

It will likely be another 10 days before the region sees any rain, said Dennis D’Amico, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle.

This might not help with the still-burning fires east of the Cascade Mountains. Around here, though, Squire, Miley and anyone else who wants to get outside will have more chances to do so.

There’s also a chance the dry weather could be a harbinger of an El Nino condition, which would mean a warmer and possibly drier winter than normal, D’Amico said.

“I’m OK with that,” said Katie Uptain, 21, of Lake Stevens, also enjoying the sun at North Cove Park.

The Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is forecasting warmer and drier temperatures for the Northwest for the rest of this month. Through the end of the year, the center is predicting normal temperatures and below-average rainfall.

The center has issued an El Nino watch, but this doesn’t necessarily mean an El Nino condition is forming, D’Amico said. It depends on the ocean temperature in the equatorial Pacific.

“It’s got to go on a little bit longer and get a little bit warmer,” he said. “It does look like El Nino is developing. It has not developed yet.”

If it does turn into an El Nino condition, it may be a mild one.

“I don’t think for this side of the Cascades it’s going to be very acute,” D’Amico said.

For the first three months of 2013, the Climate Prediction Center forecasts normal temperatures and above-average precipitation.

An El Nino year would be the first since the winter of 2009-10, according to the center. The past two winters were marked by a La Nina condition, in which below-average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean cause cooler and wetter weather.

A shift of some kind is clearly under way. Last month tied for the third-driest September on record in Seattle, with 0.03 inches of rain. Only 1975 and 1991, each with only a trace, were drier.

This year’s dry September came on the heels of a record-setting August, in which only a trace of rain was measured, according to D’Amico.

Still, because of a wet winter and spring, 2012 is still ahead of normal in precipitation — a total 26.42 inches as of the end of last month, compared with a normal nine-month average of just over 22 inches.

Though daytime temperatures in the coming days will likely be above average, reaching into the 70s, nights are already below freezing in some areas, D’Amico said. The mercury hit a low of 30 degrees at the Arlington Municipal Airport early Wednesday morning, according to Weather Service figures.

D’Amico sees a change in the pattern about 10 days down the road.

But for now, there’s plenty of time to soak up the sun.

“It’s a nice start to fall,” Uptain said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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