El Niño—long predicted and longer anticipated by many—is officially here, according to forecasters with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC).
“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,” explains Mike Halpert, CPC deputy director.
This El Niño is considered weak, though. Although forecasters say impacts associated with it could surface in parts of the Northern Hemisphere this spring—such as wetter-than-normal conditions along the Gulf Coast—they don’t expect widespread or significant global weather pattern impacts.
“This El Niño is likely too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California,” Halpert says.
The last El Niño, in 2009-2010, was a moderate to strong event. Other recent El Niños took place from 2002-2003 (moderate), 2004-2005 (weak), and 2006-2007 (weak to moderate). The last very strong El Niño in 1997-1998 provided heavy rainfall in the West, especially California.
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