Blog: El Niño becoming more likely says WMO

How will this impact hurricane season?
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 11:57 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - El Niño is becoming more likely later this year according to a new update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on May 3.

The rare three-year La Niña is coming to an end as the tropical Pacific has returned to an ENSO-neutral state. This means it is currently not in El Niño or La Niña.

According to the update from the WMO, there is a 60% chance for a transition from ENSO-neutral to El Niño from May to July 2023. This will increase to 70% from June to August, then to 80% between July and September. The forecast is based on the WMO Global Producing Centres of Long-Range forecasts alongside expert analysis. There is no indication of the strength of El Niño at this time.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a recurring climate pattern that involves changes in the temperature of water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The surface waters in this region warm or cool for a period ranging from about three to seven years. The oscillating warming and cooling pattern known as the ENSO cycle affects rainfall distribution in the tropics and influences weather patterns worldwide and in the United States.

El Niño and La Niña are the extremes of this cycle. The phase between these phases is referred to as ENSO-neutral.

El Nino and La Nina years
El Nino and La Nina years(WVUE)

The ENSO cycle is one of the most important climate phenomena on Earth. By forecasting the ENSO cycle many seasons in advance, the most substantial impacts on weather and climate can be predicted.

El Niño is the warming of the ocean surface, or sea surface temperatures (SST), in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The cooling of the ocean surface in the same region, or below normal SST, is called La Niña. In general, the warmer the SSTs, the stronger the El Niño and vice-versa. El Niño is often associated with increased heat, drought, and rainfall in certain parts of the world. In the southern US, the effects of El Niño are typically reflected in a wetter pattern from November to the following April.

El Nino explained
El Nino explained(WVUE)

El Niño also impacts Hurricane season. Typically, there will be fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic due to increased vertical wind shear and trade winds, alongside greater atmospheric stability. But this year, the El Niño pattern will be competing with record SSTs in the Atlantic - one of the main factors in hurricane development.

El Nino hurricanes
El Nino hurricanes(WVUE)

These competing factors are contributing to some uncertainty in this season’s hurricane forecast. Regardless of the outcome, it only takes one storm to make it a bad hurricane season.

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