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El Nino -- Changing Weather On the Way

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Apr 26, 2014 2:58:00 PM

El Nino


One of the strongest El Ninos ever might bring rainy relief to drought stricken areas, fewer hurricanes and warmer winters for much of the U.S and Canada. Other places on the globe might not have it so good.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who writes for Slate’s Future Tense blog has been among the first to raise awareness about the high potential for a strong El Nino and what it could mean here in the U.S. He writes, “If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.”

Rolling Stone calls Holthaus “The Rebel Nerd of Meteorology.” Holthaus is among the climatologists who say a strong El Nino has indeed formed. According to Wikipedia “El Niño is defined by prolonged warming in the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures when compared with the average value. The accepted definition is a warming of at least 0.5°C (0.9°F) averaged over the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean. Typically, this anomaly happens at irregular intervals of two to seven years, and lasts nine months to two years. The average period length is five years. When this warming occurs for only seven to nine months.”

The good thing about the weather pattern is that it could provide some respite from droughts ravaging the West and Southwest, though it could lead to flooding.

Holthaus writes that “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.”

And Green Builder Media readers know this first hand, if they remember our interview with University of Arizona professor Joellen Russell in a January blog post we called, Secrets of the Deep Blue SeaRussell was talking about the continuing and overall rise in ocean temperatures as well as the effects like El Nino.

Holthaus is more colloquial and says the “huge sub-surface wave of anomalously warm water” is a “a giant red blob” (as indicated on maps) “big enough to cover the United States 300-feet deep.”

The biggest El Nino ever recorded was 1997-1998. I remember people tubing through the residential street in front of my Tucson home that year. It was one of rare times that there was water flowing in the rivers.  

Many experts are concerned that this super El Nino could add fuel to the climate fire making 2014 and 2015 the hottest global years ever recorded. Columbia University and climate scientist James Hansen thinks that if such global records occur that temperatures will reach the highest they “have ever been since human civilization began.”

Holthaus says drought would continue to plague Indonesia, while fire would continue to ravage Australia. He says that the California and the Southwest would benefit from rain, more snow would fall in Colorado, all of which would help fill reservoirs. Chicag--Chi-beria--this past winter, could expect a much milder winter. The corn belt would have near ideal growing conditions.

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