60-Second Earth

El Nino Has Arrived

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officially announced that we will experience the El Nino phenomenon this year through to 2010. Christie Nicholson reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

El Niño has arrived. With a 1 degree Celsius increase in a band of the eastern Pacific Ocean, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration made the announcement yesterday. The climate phenomenon, El Niño–Southern Oscillation or ENSO, that warms the eastern Pacific waters, decreases trade winds, and shows up every three to seven years, last came in 2006.

It’s known to cause droughts in Southeastern Asia and floods in Central and South America, as well as bring damaging storms to the U.S.  Possible below-average rains in Australia and Asia this could severely affect their crops in wheat, sugar and rubber.

But El Niño is also known to suppress Atlantic hurricanes.

The National Weather Service predicts increased vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and this limits hurricanes, so they’re predicting an average season. But a recent paper in the journal Science predicts a change in this year’s El Niño, where it forms closer to the central Pacific, rather than in the eastern Pacific. It’s called El Niño Modoki, and this change predicts more hurricanes with higher chances of hitting land.

The next ENSO diagnostics discussion from the Climate Prediction Center will post August 6. Stay tuned.

—Christie Nicholson

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