Scientists at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have confirmed the arrival of the expected El Niño.
El Niño is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon characterized by above-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific near the equator, typically occurring every 2–7 years. However, El Niño’s impact extends far beyond the Pacific Ocean, affecting weather patterns worldwide, with potential impacts on shipping, from drought in the Panama Canal to increased cyclone activity in the central and eastern Pacific basins, while simultaneously suppressing hurricane activity in the Atlantic becomes.
Its arrival was confirmed in the Climate Prediction Center’s monthly outlook, which included an El Niño alert, noting that El Niño conditions exist and are expected to gradually strengthen into winter.
“Depending on the strength, El Niño can have various impacts, such as an increased risk of heavy rains and droughts in certain regions of the world,” said Michelle L’Heureux, climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Center. “Climate change may either amplify or mitigate certain effects associated with El Niño. For example, El Niño could lead to new temperature records, particularly in areas that already experience above average temperatures during El Niño events.”
During the summer, El Niño’s impact on the United States is relatively weak, but increases in magnitude from late fall through spring. Winter forecasts place an 84% chance of a moderate to strong El Niño and a 56% chance of a strong El Niño developing. Typically, these conditions result in above-average wet conditions in Southern California and along the Gulf Coast, while above-average dry conditions prevail in the Pacific Northwest and the Ohio Valley. In addition, El Niño winters in the country’s northern regions often bring with them a higher probability of above-average temperatures.
It’s important to note that individual El Niño events may not have all of these effects, but they do increase the likelihood of their occurrence.
The expected persistence of El Niño has also impacted NOAA’s 2023 Atlantic and Eastern Pacific hurricane forecasts, which were released last month. El Niño conditions typically suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin while favoring strong hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific basins.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will continue to incorporate current and forecast El Niño conditions in its seasonal temperature and precipitation outlook. These forecasts are updated monthly, with the next update scheduled for June 15th. The Atlantic hurricane season outlook will be updated in early August.
Scientists have been closely monitoring the development of El Niño over the past few months and issued an El Niño warning for the first time on April 13 to alert the public to the possible origin of this climate phenomenon.
As El Niño conditions intensify, scientists and meteorologists will be closely monitoring developments and providing timely updates to ensure accurate predictions of its potential impact on weather patterns around the world.