Forecasts for an El Niño event occurring this year have been consistent, and now scientists at the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society are saying they are 99 percent certain it will continue through most of the fall. Also, they say they are 95 percent certain that it will continue through the end of the year.
An El Niño event is officially recorded when sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean become warmer than average by 0.5 degrees Celsius for a period of at least three months.
Last week, the sea surface temperature anomaly in the so-called “Niño3.4 region” was warmer than average by 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is right on the threshold between a moderate and a strong El Niño event.
For a “strong” El Niño event to officially be recorded, temperature anomalies should reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius for a full month. This classification could occur by the end of the month.
Currently, computer models are forecasting a strong El Niño event. Only two other “very strong” El Niños have been recorded in history: 1982-83 and 1997-98.
El Niño can create changes in typical weather conditions all across the world. Impacts for the upcoming months of August, September and October from the IRI call for drier than normal conditions across the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. This could worsen the ongoing drought conditions in Puerto Rico. Currently, 77 percent of the island is experiencing abnormally dry to drought conditions.
El Niño could bring some welcome news to the Caribbean and United States though, as it would create a quieter than average hurricane season in the Atlantic and bring wetter-than-average conditions to the Southwestern U.S., which as we know is currently experiencing a severe to exceptional drought.