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An El Niño is forming along the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean. And, there’s a higher-than-normal chance that it will be a strong El Niño, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week. That could have dramatic effects in the United States and globally later this year and into next.
Climate scientists are particularly interested in the possibility of hotter temperatures. Since things are already warmer than usual, they say a strong El Niño could send average global temperatures soaring to record highs.
El Niño is a natural climate model. Its counterpart La Niña ended in winter, after three years of catastrophic weather.
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The most recent ocean temperatures in the El Niño region, the central tropical and eastern Pacific Ocean, are just 0.1 degrees Celsius below the threshold needed for El Niño declarations, says Nat Johnson, of the Dynamics Laboratory NOAA’s Fluid Geophysics School, wrote in a blog. Post published on Thursday.
However, while the ocean appears to be poised, Johnson said the tropical atmosphere remains in more neutral territory in the atmospheric indices scientists monitor. But the signs are getting stronger, giving scientists more confidence in the July El Niño claim, Johnson said. The probability of a strong El Niño is about 55%.
What is El Nino?
El Niño is a natural climate pattern in which surface sea temperatures in the central tropical and eastern Pacific Ocean are warmer than average.
Its name means Boy, or Child Lord in Spanish. El Niño was initially recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1600s, with the arrival of unusually warm waters in the Pacific around Christmas.
The entire natural climate cycle is officially known as El Niño – Southern Oscillation, known to scientists as ENSO. Cycle changes between warmer and cooler ocean water in an area along the equator in the tropical Pacific. La Niña is marked by ocean waters that are cooler than the average for the region.
April sets a worldwide heat record
The ocean has warmed even as El Niño begins to form. NOAA April summary reflects warming temperature:
- Average global ocean temperatures set a record high for April at 1.55 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average.
- It is only 0.02 degrees below the record warm sea temperature set in January 2016 during a strong El Niño.
- The Southern Hemisphere experienced the hottest month on record.
- The global average temperature was the fourth warmest April in NOAA’s 174-year record, 1.8 degrees above the 20th-century average of 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
- April was the 530th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average.
Why do we care about El Niño?
The ENSO cycle is a key factor government scientists consider when publishing winter weather forecasts because it primarily affects our weather during the colder months.
During an El Niño winter, the southern third of the United States is typically wetter than average conditions, while the northern third is more likely to have heat, said David DeWitt, director of the research agency. rain below normal. Climate Prediction Center.
That could be important for states like Washington, Oregon and Montana, DeWitt said, which get heavy winter annual rainfall. El Nino also means an increased chance of temperatures below normal across the southern US and above normal in the northern third of the country.
While El Niño means fewer storms and milder weather in the north, the threat of tornadoes is significantly greater in Central and South Florida, according to the National Weather Service.
During La Niña, conditions change, with colder and more stormy conditions in the north and warmer, less stormy conditions in the south.
Precipitation in the southern United States and the west coast of South America can cause devastating flooding during El Nino, while drought conditions in the western Pacific are linked to devastating wildfires in Australia.
What about storms?
El Niño also “tends to lead to an increase in vertical wind shear, which tends to reduce the number of hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic,” DeWitt said. Because winds prevent hurricanes from building a vertical structure that helps them grow stronger, NOAA and other forecasters take El Nino into account when making seasonal storm predictions.
However, El Niño can increase the number of hurricanes that form in the eastern Pacific basin.
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Could 2024 be the hottest year on record?
Although La Niña is known to cause a drop in average global temperatures, 2022 is still the sixth hottest year on records dating back to 1880.
With the arrival of El Niño, scientists predict that the average global temperature will increase markedly.
“It turns out that tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures act as a pacemaker for global surface temperatures,” DeWitt said. During El Niño events, global surface temperatures reflect rising temperatures in the tropical Pacific.
In an April blog post by the UK Met Office, Adam Scaife, head of its long-range forecasting division, said: “The current record for global temperatures occurred in 2016 and it is no coincidence that it follows the last major El Niño. If we have a big El Niño later this year, we have the potential to break the record for global temperature by 2024.”
The Bureau of Meteorology says an El Niño could at least temporarily push global average temperatures up to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, DeWitt said.
1.5 degrees Celsius above global temperatures over the long term is a level world leaders had hoped to avoid.
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