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Because of El Nino, forecasters predict a wetter, more active winter

Today is the official start of winter.

In Florida, that typically means flawless sunshine and beautiful weather.

But this year could be a little different, thanks to El Niño, weather officials say.

"Where we were dry and hot last year, we're going to be cloudy and more rainy this year," said Daniel Noah, warming coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service. "And every so often they will come together and produce some violent weather."

El Niño, which happens when warm waters shift from west to east in the Pacific, is known to produce wetter and more active winters in Florida.

This year's El Niño is considered moderate, but that doesn't mean it will be easy on us.

Even a weak El Niño year can cause some damage, as in 2006 when tornadoes ripped through Pasco County.

"We get these every four to five years," said Mike Clay, chief meteorologist at Bay News 9. "They all have some of the same characteristics, but they're all a little bit different, too."

How El Niño stacks up

Here's a look at some weather statistics over the past several winters, including the years in which there was an El Niño (in blue).

2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
Rain (inches) 10.35 8.68 25.24 12.2 9.99 12.08 9.21 22.55 6.52
Tornadoes 18 2 26 6 8 8 24 20 14
Tornado deaths 1 0 1 0 0 0 21 1 0
Property damage $11.7 million $50,000 $10.6 million $270 K $1.5 million $4.4 million $326.6 million $8.5 million $1.2 million
Source: National Weather Service

Because of El Nino, forecasters predict a wetter, more active winter 12/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 8:19pm]
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