TOPEKA (KSNT) – One of the key principles of forecasting the weather is understanding that the further out you go (in time), the more challenging the forecast becomes. With that being said, we are starting to see stronger signals of a more active severe weather season ahead.

One of the long term patterns that meteorologists keep a close eye on is called ENSO – the El Nino Southern Oscillation. This particular pattern is one of the more reliable factors to consider when looking for severe weather probabilities.

The reason being is it’s connection to the Jet Stream.

During an El Nino season, the waters off of western South America – near the equator – start to warm. Meteorologists look at the sea surface temperatures in this region to assess whether a shift in the oscillation is favorable. In short: warm waters lead to El Nino and cool waters signal La Nina.

So why is it important to know if we are in an El Nino or La Nina oscillation? The answer lies in their connection to our upper atmosphere – the jet stream.

During an El Nino year (or even a transition into El Nino) our jet stream typically becomes much more active. We start to see more ‘troughs’ in our upper air patterns. Troughs are essentially cold pockets of air diving down from the north. When they meet warm pockets of air rising from the south we often see storm systems develop.

A ‘trough’ moving into the central plains

Therefore – more jet stream activity usually leads to more active weather. During the spring and summer time, more active weather equates to more severe weather.

For example, there is a very dynamic storm system currently moving inland off of the west coast. It will better develop and organize as it transitions through the Rocky Mountains – and eventually the central plains.

As of right now, northeast Kansas is not expecting to see much of the severe weather that it will bring. The timing of its arrival isn’t quite right for our neck of the woods. Instead, we will likely see a blast of much warmer air, fast wind speeds and elevated fire danger. Some thunderstorm activity will still be possible in our viewing area, but the severe threat is lower.

With that being said, further to our east, the central plains is anticipating a widespread severe weather outbreak. All severe weather hazards will be possible: tornadoes, wind damage and large hail. Again, this will be largely impacting areas well to our east – Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, etc.

This is just one of the first strong storm systems to arrive in the central plains this spring. Due to how active our jet stream appears to be, it is likely we will start to see more frequent severe weather chances this year.

Be sure to check back in with the KSNT Storm Track weather team for future severe weather updates.