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El Niño Likely to Continue Through Summer

Figure 1. Latest CPC/IRI probabilistic ENSO forecast. Graph courtesy of International Institute for Climate and Society.

El Niño was officially declared back in February by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC).

When El Niño was called, the CPC noted in their February ENSO diagnostic discussion that it was weak.

El Niño Strengthens, Likely to Persist Though Summer

It has strengthened slightly since, as indicated by an overall increase in sea surface temperatures (SST) across the various ENSO regions.

Figure 2. Average sea surface temperature anomalies for the week of March the 6th. Map courtesy of NOAA CPC.

Climate models indicate that El Niño is likely to continue through summer; chances are officially at ~ 60% (see figure 1).

However, there is still some uncertainty, as we have yet to get past the spring “predictability barrier.”

El Niño Still Weak

An El Niño is considered to be weak when SST anomalies range from 0.5 – 1 degrees (C) above-average.

For perspective, a strong El Niño has SST anomalies from 1.5 – 1.9 degrees (C). A very strong El Niño like the 2015 event has SST anomalies in excess of 2 degrees (C).

Considering this, the current El Niño is still on the weak end of the spectrum.

Impact on the Upcoming Atlantic Hurricane Season

With El Niño now likely to continue through summer, there will be an affect on this upcoming hurricane season; how much is not known.

Figure 3 Graphic illustrating the impact of El Niño on hurricane season. Map courtesy of NOAA Climate.gov.

Typically a warm ENSO event (El Niño) results in a less active Atlantic Hurricane Season in terms of numbers. This is because there is an increase in trade winds and sinking air in the Atlantic.

However, ENSO is just one indicator of seasonal hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

No Other Changes

There have been no other major changes in regard to El Niño.

Widespread global impacts remain unlikely due to the weak nature of the event.

This could change if El Niño strengthens in the coming months. But as of now, the consensus is for a gradual decrease in intensity rather than strengthening.