El Niño could be the big weather story of 2014

10 Cards

CURATED BY Brad Plumer

2014-08-13 12:14:50 -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?
  10. How have these cards changed?
  1. Card 1 of 10

    What is El Niño — and why should I care?

  2. Card 2 of 10

    How does El Niño work, exactly?

  3. Card 3 of 10

    How often does El Niño happen?

  4. Card 4 of 10

    What sort of weather impacts does El Niño have?

  5. Card 5 of 10

    How might El Niño affect the United States?

  6. Card 6 of 10

    Will El Niño return in 2014?

    Many forecasters think an El Niño is still likely to appear in the fall or winter of 2014— but it's far from certain.

    An El Niño officially occurs when sea surface temperatures in the southern Pacific rise 0.5°C above their historical average. As of July, sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific were elevated, but some of the earlier warmth elsewhere in the ocean had declined.

    In August, forecasters predicted a 65 percent chance of El Niño materializing by the fall or early winter. That was actually a step down from the June forecast of 80 percent:

    Figure6

    NOAA/Earth Institute

    Here's NOAA:

    A strong El Niño is not favored in any of the ensemble averages, and slightly more models call for a weak event rather than a moderate event. At this time, the consensus of forecasters expects El Niño to emerge during August-October and to peak at weak strength during the late fall and early winter (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 0.5oC and 0.9oC).

    It's also possible those odds could change further in the months ahead. Nothing's 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. NOAA says that a weak or moderate event is more likely, but see the next card for some of the nuances here.

  7. Card 7 of 10

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

  8. Card 8 of 10

    Will El Niño push global temperatures to new highs?

  9. Card 9 of 10

    How did El Niño get its name?

  10. Card 10 of 10

    How have these cards changed?

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