• Weather Update: El Niño Less Likely To Happen This Year

    The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) says the chance of El Niño happening is looking less likely for this fall and winter.

    CPC new prediction gives a 60 to 65 percent chance of El Niño happening in the Northern Hemisphere this fall and winter. This is slightly down from CPC’s August prediction of a solid 65 percent chance of El Niño this year, and significantly down from CPC’s July prediction of an 80 percent chance of El Niño this fall and winter.

    “The lack of a coherent atmospheric El Niño pattern and near-average [sea surface temperatures] in the central Pacific indicate a continuation of [El Niño Southern Oscillation]-neutral,” according to CPC.

    El Niño may not have shown up quite yet, but CPC says “of the models continue to predict El Niño to develop during September-November and to continue into early 2015.” CPC also notes that a majority of models “favor a weak El Niño” to emerge sometime between September and October that peaks “at weak strength during the late fall and early winter “

    El Niño is associated with prolonged warmer than average water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that occurs at regularly every few years and can last for months and sometimes years. In North America, El Niño usually means winters will be drier in the northern parts of the U.S. while the southwestern parts of the country and northern parts of Mexico usually experience cooler and wetter winters.

    Some weather forecasters and climate scientists fear that another El Niño could mean parts of the U.S. will be hit by another harsh winter — a troubling thought given that many of the country’s power plants will be shutting down permanently next year.

    The 200-year old Farmers’ Almanac predicts next winter will be colder than usual for two-thirds of the U.S. east of the Rockie Mountains, mirroring the harsh winter the Midwest and Northeast were hit with last year.

    But so far this year, El Niño has so far not shown up, evidenced by cooler than average water temperatures this summer.

    “We still believe that the event will occur,” Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster with CPC, told Climate Central.

    More importantly, if El Niño fails to show up this year scientists will have to question the performance of their climate and weather models.

    “If we don’t see an El Niño this year, then we have a big black mark on the model performance,” Anthony Barnston, a climate forecaster at Columbia University, told Nature.

    “Why has nature surprised us in this startling way?” Michael McPhaden, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Nature. “Figuring it out is going to be really important.”

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