YAKIMA, Wash. -- El Nino is shaping up as expected for the Pacific Northwest this winter, resulting in warmer temperatures, drier conditions and below-average mountain snowpack in Washington.

El Nino is a periodic warming of the water in the tropical Pacific Ocean accompanied by changes in air pressure and winds that can influence weather worldwide.

In the Pacific Northwest, that generally means warmer and drier conditions, with above-average precipitation in the Southwest.

Scott Pattee, water supply specialist for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, said Tuesday that snowpack levels are below average across Washington state, with the lone exception being the Olympic Peninsula.

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