July 9, 2009

El Nino Brewing In The Pacific

On Thursday government scientists said that periodic warming of water in the tropic Pacific Ocean, also known as El Nino, has returned, which will affect weather around the globe.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that the Pacific had been in a neutral state, but the sea surface temperature rose to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal along a narrow band in the eastern equatorial Pacific in June.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said that temperatures in other tropical regions are also above normal, with readings 975 feet below the ocean surface reading warmer than usual.

El Nino conditions are associated with increased rainfall throughout the east-central and eastern Pacific, while there are drier conditions over northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In an El Nino year there tends to be more Eastern Pacific hurricanes and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.  Also, a summer El Nino can lead to wetter conditions in the intermountain regions of the U.S. and over central Chile.

According to forecasters, this El Nino event will continue to strengthen over the next few months and will last through the winter of 2009-2010.

"Advanced climate science allows us to alert industries, governments and emergency managers about the weather conditions El Nino may bring so these can be factored into decision-making and ultimately protect life, property and the economy," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a statement.

Not all El Nino effects are negative, according to NOAA officials.  It can suppress Atlantic hurricanes and bring needed moisture to the dry Southwest.

However, it can also bring winter storms to California and increase storms throughout the southern U.S.

The ocean warming can also cause a reduced seafood catch off the West Coast, and fewer fish can impact food sources of several types of animals.

Georgia Tech researchers just provided results to a study that suggests there might be two forms of El Nino, depending on whether the warming is stronger in the eastern or central Pacific.

Although the current warming seems to be stronger in the east, government forecasters did not categorize it.

If the Georgia Tech study is accurate, then this would be the type of El Nino with reduced Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes.  The other type of El Nino seems to promote these storms.


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