Pacific Ocean set to spawn an El Niño this winter

World Meteorological Organization predicts a weak- to moderate-strength event that could bring heavy rains and drought to various parts of the world.

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A fisherman (left) stands on the cracked shore of Magdalena river in Columbia on January 14th 2016.

Severe El Niño events, such as the one that manifested in 2015–2016, can cause severe drought in places such as Colombia. Credit: John Vizcaino/Reuters

There’s a 75-80% chance that a weak El Niño weather pattern will develop between December 2018 and February 2019, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Researchers don’t expect the upcoming El Niño to wreak as much havoc as the monster 2015-2016 event, which flooded parts of South America and sparked worldwide coral bleaching, among other things.

But even a weak El Niño could boost global temperatures and lead to increased rainfall in areas including the US Gulf Coast and the southeast coast of South America, the WMO said on 27 November statement.

Sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific warmed to weak El Niño conditions in October. Researchers predict that the atmosphere will respond to the increased temperatures with changes in wind and cloud patterns in the coming months. And forecasts warn that the ocean could warm enough to extend the El Niño through April 2019.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07555-y

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