Press Esc to close
Sunday 26 June 2016
News updated at 3:21 PM IST
Weather
Max: 27.5°C
Min : 19.4°C
In Bengaluru
Generally cloudy

Signs of a weak El Nino

John H Cushman Jr, October 8, 2012, New York Times News Service

A season of warmer ocean waters that has been expected to produce an El Nino episode and perhaps bring relief from the continuing drought may turn out to be a bit weaker than advertised, according to climate experts.

The periodic upwelling of warmer waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific can be one of the most telling calls that a climatologist can make. A powerful El Nino can drive global patterns of drought, storm, snow and flood, with big consequences for farmers and fishermen, relief organisations and reservoir operators, schoolchildren and ski bums. But after seeing signals for months that a moderate El Nino might be arriving right about now, the more likely case appears to be an episode that is weak indeed: probably short, and hardly nasty or brutish. Scientists who predict the weather months in advance pay close attention to back-and-forth swings in what they call El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, which includes the mirror-image oceanic cooling called La Nina that probably made the past year’s drought worse.

Debatable strength

“We believe that there will be an El Nino, but the strength of it is debatable, and it may be a fairly weak one,” said Huug van den Dool, a meteorologist at the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center.

“The bigger the El Nino, the bigger the effect,” said David Neelin, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at UCLA. “This may be El Nino manque, a borderline El Nino – a wannabe El Nino.” That is disappointing news for anyone hoping for much relief from the drought that has gripped the United States. Some people thought a wetter winter might be in store across the US’s midsection when they heard, starting in the spring, that the latest La Nina had ended and that El Nino was on its way. It is now starting to look as though wetter weather in the next few months will be more likely along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast than in the heart of the drought zone. A weak to moderate El Nino can also favour snow along the Northeastern corridor through Baltimore, New York and Boston, where the wet pattern could meet up with normal freezing temperatures. After midwinter, the models diverge but suggest that any El Nino will wane quickly.

The consensus of the world’s weather gurus remains that “a weak El Nino may develop in October and last until the Northern Hemisphere winter,” the World Meteorological Organization said recently. “There are times, and this year is one of them, when it is more subjective,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It takes three things for his agency to formally declare the arrival of El Nino. One is that equatorial sea surface temperatures rise to at least half a degree Celsius above normal across a particular part of the Pacific. A second condition is that the atmosphere must show, in measurements of tropical winds and moisture, that it has plugged in to the ocean’s energy and is beginning to respond. Here the signals have been even weaker.

There is another uncertainty: What the scientists are watching for are anomalies, or deviations from normal averages. But with climate change, the definition of normal has itself been shifting.


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik creates a sand sculpture to congratulate Athlete Dutee chand

Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik creates a sand sculpture to congratulate Athlete Dutee chand

Cricketer Virat Kohli sings the national anthem during the opening ceremony of the Pro Kabaddi...

Cricketer Virat Kohli sings the national anthem during the opening ceremony of the Pro Kabaddi...

Security forces inspecting the CRPF bus which was attacked by militants on Srinagar-Jammu National..

Security forces inspecting the CRPF bus which was attacked by militants on Srinagar-Jammu National..

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav at a roza iftar party in Lucknow...

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav at a roza iftar party in Lucknow...

Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez during the launch of Aeropostale store in Mumbai...

Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez during the launch of Aeropostale store in Mumbai...

Two planes perform a dramatic fly past, during a display of the Red Arrows Display Team...

Two planes perform a dramatic fly past, during a display of the Red Arrows Display Team...

Local train on water logged railway track in Thane on Saturday. Local train services...

Local train on water logged railway track in Thane on Saturday. Local train services...

The launch of New Audi R8 V10 Plus in Hyderabad on Saturday...

The launch of New Audi R8 V10 Plus in Hyderabad on Saturday...

Siberian tigers play in the pool of their enclosure to cool themselves in the zoo...

Siberian tigers play in the pool of their enclosure to cool themselves in the zoo...

BJP activists holding a protest in front of Ram Remple in Bhubaneswar on Friday...

BJP activists holding a protest in front of Ram Remple in Bhubaneswar on Friday...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523