MIAMI, FLORIDA – New data has revealed that the current El Niño is one of the strongest on record, earning the title of a “super El Niño.” However, forecasters are predicting the likelihood of a transition to La Niña in the coming months. The strength of El Niño is determined by ocean surface temperatures, with the current tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures being 2 degrees Celsius warmer than normal from November to January. This threshold has only been surpassed six times on record, indicating a very strong El Niño.
According to climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux, the super El Niño has already peaked in strength and is expected to decline. Forecasters have issued a La Niña watch, anticipating cooler than average conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific as early as summer, but more likely by fall. El Niño’s influence on global weather patterns will continue to impact the weather in the coming months, with its strength measured on a seasonal timescale rather than in terms of individual weather events.
El Niño’s impact on weather patterns is particularly evident in the United States, with a warmer-than-average winter and less snow across the northern tier, and a wetter-than-average winter for the southern tier. Additionally, El Niño has been known to enhance atmospheric river events on the West Coast, which can lead to extreme weather conditions such as the recent disastrous wildfires in Chile.
While El Niño has left its fingerprints on temperature and precipitation patterns across several continents, climate scientist L’Heureux emphasizes that not every extreme weather event can be directly attributed to El Niño in a warming world. It’s important to consider the climate change component, as human-caused climate change continues to drive up global temperatures, resulting in more frequent and intense extreme weather events.
A La Niña watch is currently in effect, with conditions favorable for a transition to La Niña within the next six months, as forecasted by the Climate Prediction Center. Depending on when La Niña materializes, it could have significant implications for the weather patterns in the upcoming months, potentially affecting the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. Last year’s active Atlantic hurricane season is a reminder of the impact of warm oceans on hurricane activity, despite attempts by El Niño to reduce activity.
As the transition to La Niña unfolds, it remains crucial to monitor its potential repercussions on global weather patterns and prepare for possible shifts in weather conditions.