El Niño at its simplest form is the warm phase of a reoccurring fluctuation in the temperatures of the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator. When these waters are warmer than normal, it is classified as an El Niño. When they are cooler than normal, a La Niña sets in. Sea surface temperatures from a section in the middle of the El Nino are considered a benchmark for the strength rating. That strength is determined by the sea surface temperature.
All eyes are on the El Nino episode in the Pacific Ocean, which had hit an all-time record. Over the past week, it hit above three degrees Celsius, beating the previous record of above 2.8 degrees Celsius during the 1997 “Super El Nino”. These waters should begin gradually cooling as the El Nino is forecast to weaken over the next month. It will interesting to see if the typical El Nino shifts in the weather pattern develop over the next few months, do to expectations being only viable until we actually experience the effects.
El Nino, which historically has spawned storms and droughts and devastated crops and homes elsewhere in the country, has returned this year, stronger than ever, and some of its “milder” effects are being felt. For example, a low-pressure system fueled by El Nino two weeks ago doused the West Coast and dumped sizable amounts of snow in Iowa and Illinois but, by the same token, it stalled and weakened the storm’s snow potential in New York State, meteorologists said.
NOAA explains that the warm Pacific and trade winds are shifting, which all signs are pointing to a significant El Nino winter. They said the last really good El Nino winter was in 1997-98. The report increases probabilities for a stronger El Nino with greater longevity to last through this coming winter. If this occurs, it would lessen probabilities for another excessively cold winter in the western New York region and increase probabilities of a milder than average winter. Scientists said they are still not sure if the El Nino winter would end the drought.
The developing El Nino that most say will cause havoc around the globe is showing features that have already begun rivaling the notorious 1982-83 El Nino, which killed 2,000 people and caused $13 billion in economic losses.
The strength of this year’s El Nino has resulted in a quiet 1997 hurricane season, contrary to pre-season predictions. The strong winds caused by the El Niño’s help weaken the forces that cause hurricanes to develop.
Rochester and a good portion of Western New York has a big winter to look forward to. Local meteorologists are predicting that what’s already being called El Nino of the century may bring Rochester more freezes and snowfall than the city has had since 1982-84, the years of the last powerful El Nino.
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