this Wednesday, March 25, 1998 file photo, Enrique
Lagunas digs a trench to redirect water toward a
street in Laguna Beach, Calif. after heavy rains from
an El Nino storm hit Southern California. On Thursday,
March 6, 2014, the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric
and Administration announced their prediction of an El
Nino warming of the central Pacific Ocean in 2014 that
will change weather worldwide. It is expected to
trigger fewer Atlantic hurricanes, more rain next
winter for drought-struck California and southern
states and even cause a milder winter for the nation's
cold-struck northern tier next year, meteorologists
say. For the world it can mean an even hotter year
coming up and food crop losses.
— Relief may be on the way for a weather-weary United
States with the predicted warming of the central Pacific
Ocean brewing this year that will likely change weather
worldwide. But it won't be for the better everywhere.
warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer
Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for
drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a
milder winter for the nation's frigid northern tier next
year, meteorologists say.
could be good news to lessen the southwestern U.S. drought
and shrink heating bills next winter in the far north,
"worldwide it can be quite a different story,"
said North Carolina State University atmospheric sciences
professor Ken Kunkel. "Some areas benefit. Some
it can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of
dollars in losses for food crops.
National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an
official El Nino watch Thursday. An El Nino is a warming of
the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination
of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate
around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.
Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction
Center, says the El Nino warming should develop by this
summer, but that there are no guarantees. Although early
signs are appearing already a few hundred feet below the
ocean surface, meteorologists say an El Nino started to brew
in 2012 and then shut down suddenly and unexpectedly.
side of El Nino is called a La Nina, which has a general
cooling effect. It has been much more frequent than El Ninos
lately, with five La Ninas and two small-to-moderate El
Ninos in the past nine years. The last big El Nino was
1997-1998. Neither has appeared since mid-2012. El Ninos are
usually strongest from December to April.
Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for
Atmospheric Research, who wasn't part of NOAA's forecast,
agreed that an El Nino is brewing.
could be a substantial event and I think we're due,"
Trenberth said. "And I think it could have major
said it is too early to say how strong this El Nino will be.
The last four have been weak or moderate and those have
fewer effects on weather.
studies have tied El Ninos to farming and fishing problems
and to upticks in insect-born disease, such as malaria.
Commodity traders even track El Nino cycles. A study by
Texas A&M University economics professor Bruce McCarl
found the last big El Nino of 1997-1998 cost about $3
billion in agricultural damage.
said this El Nino may even push the globe out of a
decade-long slowdown in temperature increase, "so
suddenly global warming kicks into a whole new level."
if this El Nino is a strong one, global temperatures,
probably in 2015, could "be in near record breaking
however, says El Ninos can be beneficial, and that the one
being forecast is "a perfect case."
of dryness and low reservoirs, an El Nino's wet weather
would be welcome in places like California, Halpert said.
they get too much rain, I think they'd rather have that
situation rather than another year of drought," Halpert
said. "Sometimes you have to pick your poison."
and South Africa should be dry while parts of South America
become dry and parts become wet in an El Nino. Peru suffers
the most, getting floods and poorer fishing.
event got the name El Nino, meaning the boy in Spanish, when
it was first noticed off the coast of Peru and Ecuador
around Christmas time and was named after Christ child,
according to Trenberth.