Stories

El Niño watch issued as signs point to a return of the climate cycle

Sea surface temperature anomalies across the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Sea surface temperature anomalies during May 2018, compared to the 1981-2010 average. Credit: NOAA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued an El Niño watch, meaning that conditions are favorable for El Niño conditions to develop in the tropical Pacific Ocean within the next six months.

Why it matters: If an El Niño forms, it would follow one of the most intense such events on record, which teamed up with long-term climate change, to lead to the warmest year ever recorded: 2016. Depending on its exact location in the Pacific and its intensity, the climate phenomenon can reorder weather patterns around the world. On the plus side, it can contribute to increased upper atmospheric winds over the tropical Atlantic, weakening nascent hurricanes and keeping the number of storms lower than they otherwise would be.