WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON (AP) — The weather-altering El Nino condition in the Pacific Ocean seems to be easing and could be over by June, government climate experts reported Thursday.
If conditions do revert to neutral, it could complicate forecasting this summer's hurricanes, since El Nino years tend to have fewer storms than normal in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
Last month, forecasters Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray of Colorado State University said they foresee above-average storm activity for the Atlantic hurricane season due to a warming of tropical Atlantic "and a more confident view that the current El Nino will weaken."
So-called La Nina years, when the Pacific is colder than usual, can lead to an increase in Atlantic hurricanes, but neutral conditions between the two make the storm season harder to predict.
The government's hurricane forecast for this summer is due out later this month.
El Nino is often noted as warmer than normal water in the tropical Pacific, and when that occurs there are generally warmer than normal winter temperatures in the North Central States and cooler than normal readings in the Southeast and the Southwest.
This year, things were complicated by high pressure over Greenland that pushed cold, wet weather south leading to blizzards along the East Coast.
In its regular update of El Nino/La Nina conditions, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction said warm conditions in the Pacific continue, but have weakened since the end of February.
Most computer models predict neutral conditions through the end of the year, but a few suggest the possibility of a La Nina developing, according to the Centers, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the Net:
National Centers for Environmental Prediction: http://www.ncep.noaa.gov/
NOAA El Nino page: http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/