The Pacific Northwest is now entering the beginning of an El Niño winter with the season officially beginning tonight. 

But the effects of El Niño have been in place for a while with warmer temperatures and a substantial amount of rain in Wenatchee and around the region. 

Meteorologist Ken Daniel with the National Weather Service says the heavy presence of rain does not mean there's been unusually high precipitation. 

"Maybe it seems like more because a lot of it has been coming down as rain instead of snow," said Daniel. "But in terms of the actual liquid precipitation it's very close to normal." 

Pangborn Airport has received 2.35 inches of precipitation since the beginning of October, which is very close to the normal level of 2.32 inches. 

There’s only been slightly more precipitation since the beginning of December, 1.5 inches compared to the normal level of .85 inches. 

However, the El Niño pattern has definitely led to less snowfall in the Cascades. 

Daniel says it's too early to tell how the reduced snowpack will impact next summer's wildfire season. 

"There's plenty of time for things to change," Daniel said. "But in terms of the snowpack, we are running below normal. And we would like those numbers to come up, so that the fire season doesn't shape out to be too terrible this year. But we'll see how it plays out." 

Snowpack levels in the Cascades for currently 50 to 75 percent of normal. 

According to the Washington Water Research Center, reductions in the seasonal snowpack in recent decades in Washington State have caused earlier runoff and decreased discharge to streams thus affecting the availability of water resources.  

A consequence of the earlier snowmelt is an increase in wildfire frequency, size, intensity and duration. 

Snowfall in the Cascades has also started later than normal this year. Snoqualmie Pass had accumulated seven inches of snow by the end of November. The total was 26 inches at the end of Wednesday, Dec. 20. 

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