The odds are increasing that an El Niño is in the works for 2014—and recent forecasts show it might be a big one.
As noted by Chris Farley, El Niños can boost the odds of extreme weather (droughts, typhoons, heat waves) across much of the planet. But the most important thing about El Niño is that it is predictable, sometimes six months to a year in advance.
That’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are one of the billions who live where El Niño tends to hit hardest—Asia and the Americas. If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.
The most commonly accepted definition of an El Niño is a persistent warming of the so-called “Niño3.4” region of the tropical Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii, lasting for at least five consecutive three-month “seasons.” A recent reversal in the direction of the Pacific trade winds appears to have kicked off a warming trend during the last month or two. That was enough to prompt US government forecasters to issue an El Niño watch last month.
Forecasters are increasingly confident in a particularly big El Niño this time around because, deep below the Pacific Ocean’s surface, off-the-charts warm water is lurking:
As that blob of warm water moves eastward, propelled by the anomalous trade winds, it’s also getting closer to the ocean’s surface. Once that happens, it will begin to interact with the atmosphere, boosting temperatures and changing weather patterns.
There are signs that this huge pool of sub-surface warmth is starting to emerge on the surface in recent days:
Which means that April 2014 could be the month the mega El Niño gets officially underway.
Credit: Mother Jones- See more of the article here.