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El Niño Coming Back With a Vengeance -- Forecasters

05/20/2014 @ 2:12pm

Circling far above the earth, NASA’s Jason-2 satellite has been watching something brewing in the Pacific.

And if climatologists are right, what the Jason-2 has been observing could be the beginning of the one of the most potent El Niño events in recent years . . . as big, if not bigger, than the El Niño of 1997.

The chance of an El Niño happening this summer has increased to 65%, up from 50% last month. Forecasters are now favoring an El Niño onset during the May-June-July time period, vs. the June-July-August favored in April’s outlook. “The forecasters are much more optimistic that this is going to develop,” says NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Michelle L’Heureux.

The years 1997–98 made El Niño a household word. That was one of the strongest El Niño events ever seen, with extreme weather occurring on several continents. For example, North America experienced one of its warmest and wettest winters on record during 1997-98.


Scientists at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service foresee a 65% chance of a transition to El Niño in the summer of 2014. The good news behind this development is that if El Niño returns, the American West and Southwest could “see major relief next winter from the long-lasting drought,” says climatologist Bill Patzert, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Further, the very frigid winter in the upper tier of the U.S this past winter could do a flip to mild next winter.”

This new El Niño does has a dark side for North America, however. It could establish 2014 or 2014 ars the warmest years on record as it is coupled to higher average global temperatures. The 1997-1998 El Niño caused 1998 to be one of the four warmest years on record, according to NOAA.

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