The long-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived, according to forecasters with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. In their updated monthly outlook released today, forecasters issued an El Niño Advisory to declare the arrival of the ocean-atmospheric phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean near the equator.
Due to the weak strength of the El Niño, widespread or significant global weather pattern impacts are not anticipated. However, certain impacts often associated with El Niño may appear this spring in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, such as wetter-than-normal conditions along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
"Based on the persistent observations of above-average sea surface temperatures across the western and central equatorial Pacific Ocean and consistent pattern of sea level pressure, we can now say that El Niño is here," said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, and ENSO forecaster. "Many climate prediction models show this weak El Niño continuing into summer."
Forecasters say it is likely (50 to 60 percent chance) that El Niño conditions will continue through the summer.
The last El Niño, in 2009-2010, was a moderate to strong event. Other recent El Niño's took place from 2002-2003 (moderate), 2004-2005 (weak), 2006-2007 (weak to moderate). The last very strong El Nino was 1997-1998 and was known for providing heavy rainfall in the West, especially California. As for this year, "this El Nino is likely too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California," added Halpert.
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