A weather-changing El Nino with the power to blunt the Atlantic hurricane season has begun.
Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have risen 0.5°C (0.9°F) above normal and wind patterns have changed to the point where El Nino criteria have been met, the US Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. The agency, which is part of the National Weather Service, is also certain that these conditions will persist.
“El Nino conditions are present and we expect them to mature and develop as we enter the Northern Hemisphere winter,” said Michelle L’Heureux, forecaster at the center, in an interview.
El Ninos is disrupting weather patterns around the world and can bring drought to Australia and India and more rain in California winters. The phenomenon can trigger wind shear in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico that can tear apart hurricanes and tropical storms, although there will be little other effects on North America over the next three months.
“The impacts on North America during the summer are very limited,” L’Heureux said. “They are weak and do not persist from El Nino to El Niño.”
This is the first El Niño in more than three years, and forecasters expect it to be at least moderate and possibly strong. The stronger El Ninos, the more likely it is to impact weather patterns around the world.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday the world was on the brink of an El Nino, but failed to declare one. The United States and Australia use different criteria to define the phenomenon.
“It’s just a matter of criteria,” L’Heureux said.
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