El Niņo ahead?

Climate Prediction Center posts El Niņo watch

March 7, 2014

U.S. federal forecasters predict a warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year that will change weather worldwide.

A new report from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center suggests changes could be on the way for weather patterns across the U.S. and the globe.

NOAA’s bulletin says “sea surface temperature anomalies have recently increased newt the International Date Line” as well as “in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.” And that “many dynamical models predict El Niņo to develop during the summer or fall.”

El Niņo conditions are declared when the average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific are at least 0.5 °C above average for three consecutive months. These abnormally elevated sea surface temperatures allow for the atmosphere to warm and provide instability, leading to the development of thunderstorm activity.

According to the report, the chance of an El Niņo reemerging this year has increased. And, if the models from the report play out, that could mean fewer named storms in the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season and potential drought relief for parts of California later this year.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center said that even with El Niņo, strong tropical cyclones are still possible. “I always like to remind people of the 1992 hurricane season, which was an El Niņo year and only featured seven named storms. But the first one was Andrew.”

Australia and South Africa should be dry while parts of South America become dry and parts become wet in an El Niņo. Peru suffers the most, getting floods and poorer fishing.

It could also bring a milder winter for the frigid U.S. northern tier next year, meteorologists say.

All in all, NOAA’s current forecast indicates that there is a 50/50 chance for an El Niņo to form later this year, and as with any long-range forecast, significant uncertainties exist that warrant careful caution and observation.

Despite the predictions and the issuance of an El Niņo Watch, NOAA cautions that there is still “considerable uncertainty” in the models as to whether or not an El Niņo will actually develop. Discerning weather observers will remember that the last predicted El Niņo in 2012 turned out to be a bust.

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