El Niño of 1982-83 and Nashville, Tennessee's Winter Temperature and Precipitation

Bobby Boyd
NWSO Nashville, TN

1. Introduction

A strong warm episode (El Niño) is underway (Fall 1997) in the tropical Pacific Ocean. From the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Advisory 97/9 issued by the Climate Prediction Center/NCEP on October 10, 1997, the September sea surface temperatures remained well above normal in the central and eastern Pacific.1 The anomalies ranged from 1oC above normal from the International Dateline to the South American and Mexican coasts to 4oC above normal along the equator east of 120oW.

These large positive anomalies are comparable to those observed during the strongest El Niño in the last 50 years which occurred in 1982-83.

2. Climatological Data


The winter of 1982-83 was unusually mild in Nashville. The average winter temperature was 3.6oF above normal. The coldest temperature during the winter was only 16oF. Nashville experienced its warmest Christmas on record in 1982 with a daily average temperature of 68oF.2


Precipitation during the winter of 1982-83 was 92 percent of normal.3 December was above normal with both January and February below normal.

Snowfall for the winter season 1982-83 totaled 1.5 inches which was well below the average seasonal snowfall for Nashville of 9.2 inches.4

3. Conclusions

During the 1982-83 El Niño episode, Nashville, Tennessee experienced an unusually mild winter, with each of the winter months above normal in temperature. The winter as a whole was slightly drier than normal, with only December wetter than normal. Snowfall for the winter was well below normal.


The author would like to thank Henry Steigerwaldt, Science and Operations Officer, and Fred Hellwagner, Hydrometeorological Technician, for their reviews and suggestions.

1 http://nic.fb4.noaa.gov
2 The high for Christmas in 1982 was 72oF and the low was 64oF.
3 Normal based on 1951-1980.
4 Average winter snowfall based on 1884-85 to 1990-91.

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