El Niño's Return Brings Global Dread — or Celebration

Tuesday, 01 Jul 2014 11:20 AM

By Andrea Billups

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If the political storms in Washington weren't enough, the looming future weather forecast ought to turn your head. Climate scientists say the phenomenon known as El Niño is back and expected to strike over the next few months, Globalpost reports.

The warming trend, which should impact the Pacific Rim area the most, stands about an 80 percent chance of recurring this year, scientists from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center say, noting that unusually warm surface ocean temperatures merging with circulation patterns in the atmosphere combine to cause this natural weather pattern every 2-7 years.

"Over the last month, the chance of El Niño and its ultimate strength weakened slightly in the models. Regardless, the forecasters remain just as confident that El Niño is likely to emerge," the center noted in a statement released last month. "Overall, the chance of El Niño is 70 percent during the Northern Hemisphere summer and reaches 80 percent during the fall and winter."

The World Meteorological Organization also warned last week that governments should prepare for El Niño's arrival.

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"Our understanding of El Niño and La Niña has increased dramatically in recent years and this knowledge has enabled us to develop very successful climate services for society. Advance warning has given governments around the world time to make contingency plans for the impact of this year's expected El Niño on the agriculture, water management, health, and other climate-sensitive sectors," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

Already early signs have been seen in India, with a delayed monsoon season that has brought spikes in food prices as rainfall is 48 percent below normal, marking the lowest rainfall in five years, Bloomberg reported.

Other areas like Australia are also expected to feels El Niño's wrath in the form of drought.

Across the Americas, however, El Niño will bring extra rainfall, a particular fear in areas of Latin America where the weather brought serious late-1990s flooding that caused billions of dollars in damages and now could leave many already impoverished areas vulnerable to similar results.

Growing areas in the United States that have seen recent drought welcome El Niño, however. In California, where 77 percent of the state is under "extreme drought" conditions, hopes that it would occur this spring fizzled.

"The El Niño had a very promising, dramatic surge in January, February, and March, but now as we enter summer, all of a sudden it is disappearing," climatologist Bill Patzert of Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

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