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Much Heralded El Niño Now Looks Less Likely

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Since the beginning of the year, meteorologists have been talking about the potential for El Niño, late in 2014. But a newly released report from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is throwing cold water on that possibility.

According to the report, there’s now only a 58% chance of El Niño — much less than previous predictions from the CPC. If El Niño does occur, it’s likely to be mild and only last until spring 2015.

So, what gives? According to a post in CPC’s blog, “despite the presence of ‘borderline’ El Niño conditions (i.e. warmer equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature, and some reduction in rain over Indonesia). El Niño is still expected, but with less confidence.”

What’s causing this drop in confidence?

Well, it’s a multitude of things, but a disconnect in the atmospheric-oceanic relationship is mainly to blame. In other words, the equatorial Pacific Ocean is responding as expected during an El Niño event — it’s abnormally warming from the western coast of South America to the west. But the atmosphere isn’t exactly responding in kind. Normally, dry, hot conditions will develop over parts of Australia and the western Pacific, but that hasn’t happened to the magnitude as expected by scientists.

As mentioned above, this is leading scientists to think El Niño will be much weaker during this ENSO cycle.

From a numerical prediction standpoint, El Niño is extremely hard to predict during a weak cycle. Emily Becker explains in a CPC blog post, “…the shift toward weaker, more centrally located El Niños is more difficult for climate models to capture. The depth of the thermocline, equatorial winds, and sea surface temperatures are inextricably linked–and so the combination of certain factors results in changes in how well ENSO can be predicted.”

The El Niño forecast is likely to chance in the coming months and WeatherNation meteorologists will be keeping an eye on it , bringing you the latest information as it becomes avalaible.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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