El Niño could be the biggest weather story of 2014

9 Cards

CURATED BY Brad Plumer

2014-05-22 12:06:29 -0400

  1. What is El Niño — and why should I care?
  2. How does El Niño work, exactly?
  3. How often does El Niño happen?
  4. What sort of weather impacts does El Niño have?
  5. How might El Niño affect the United States?
  6. Will El Niño return in 2014?
  7. Will we get a strong El Niño or a weak one?
  8. Will El Niño push global temperatures to new highs?
  9. How did El Niño get its name?
  1. Card 1 of 9

    What is El Niño — and why should I care?

  2. Card 2 of 9

    How does El Niño work, exactly?

  3. Card 3 of 9

    How often does El Niño happen?

  4. Card 4 of 9

    What sort of weather impacts does El Niño have?

  5. Card 5 of 9

    How might El Niño affect the United States?

  6. Card 6 of 9

    Will El Niño return in 2014?

    It's looking increasingly likely.

    An El Niño officially occurs when sea surface temperatures in the southern Pacific rise 0.5°C above their historical average. Right, now, temperatures just beneath the surface are rising fast, and many forecasters are raising the odds of an El Niño in 2014.

    Here's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: "the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer." Forecasters are now predictng a nearly 80 percent chance of El Niño by September:

    Figure1

    NOAA/Earth Institute

    That said, nothing's absolutely certain yet. In 2012, the odds of an El Niño rose to 75 percent — but El Niño never arrived.

    Another important question, meanwhile, is whether we'll see a strong El Niño or a weaker one. That's much harder to answer (and see the next card for more on that).

  7. Card 7 of 9

    Will we get a strong El Niño or a weak one?

  8. Card 8 of 9

    Will El Niño push global temperatures to new highs?

  9. Card 9 of 9

    How did El Niño get its name?

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