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Is a Potential El Niño Good News for the U.S.?

March 14, 2014

The Climate Prediction Center/NCEP/NWS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society reported on March 6, 2014 that El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which refers to temperatures variations in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean area is expected to continue in its neutral phase through the Northern Hemisphere during the spring of 2014, and that there is an approximately 50 percent chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall. El Niño is characterized by atypically warm temperatures and occurs once every three to seven years. An El Niño event would likely yield a weaker hurricane season for the U.S. east coast and the gulf coast because the hurricane season would be overshadowed by the stronger competition (in the form of El Niño). It could also provide benefits on the west coast. California is suffering from a crippling drought and El Niño in the winter typically brings much wetter conditions for the west coast of the U.S. Since El Niño warms up the atmosphere on a whole, experts say that it could cause a small global warming phenomenon, which may be welcome to those in the Midwest and Northeast that experienced frigid temperatures this winter. Of course, a strong El Niño could also bring near record-breaking temperatures in 2015 on a global scale. Although people in the U.S. might rejoice at the sign of El Niño, people in other areas of the world may not be as thrilled; for example, monsoons in India and droughts in Australia might result.