El Niño unlikely to relieve drought-stricken U.S.
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Cold water in the north Pacific may diminish the severity of El Niño weather, climatologists say.
The phenomenon was previously expected to provide some much-needed rain for the nation's drought zone, but scientists now say wetter weather will most likely hit the Gulf Coast and Southeast instead of the middle of the country.
"We believe that there will be an El Niño, but the strength of it is debatable, and it may be a fairly weak one," said Huug van den Dool, a meteorologist at the federal government's Climate Prediction Center.
Scientists use three factors to predict El Niño, with its warm ocean waters and worldwide weather effects. Sea surface temperatures must increase at least half a degree Celsius above normal in particular areas within the Pacific. Tropical winds and moisture are monitored for specific responses to ocean energy, and these conditions must be likely to persist for three months.
Temperatures are decreasing within the ocean, leading climatologists to believe this year's El Niño will be negligible.
"The bigger the El Niño, the bigger the effect," said David Neelin, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of California, Los Angeles. "This may be El Niño manqué, a borderline El Niño -- a wannabe El Niño" (John H. Cushman Jr., New York Times, Oct. 2). -- MBI