El Niño to Return in Spring, Impacting Global Climate Patterns
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that shifts between warm and cold phases caused by a complex relationship between pressure, winds, and ocean currents. Typically, there is a phase change around every 1-3 years, but as we have recently experienced, phases can last longer. For the past three years, La Niña has been present, an anomaly that has only happened on three occasions. The World Meteorological Organization’s latest report indicates that El Niño warming event may occur in the coming months with a 90% chance of a return to “ENSO-neutral” conditions from March to May, decreasing as the summer goes on.
The North American multi-model ensemble forecast (NMME) also shows the same anomalies developing over Summer, though somewhat weaker than forecasted by the ECMWF model. According to the ECMWF forecast, the eastern and central ENSO regions will go warm this Spring, with the average anomaly forecast for the March-April-May season being the meteorological Spring season.
El Niño and La Niña have a major influence on temperature and rainfall patterns in different parts of the world. While El Niño can cause lower pressure over the central and eastern tropical Pacific, increasing the number of storms and precipitation, La Niña has the opposite impact on weather and climate in affected regions. It is usually associated with drier-than-normal conditions in California, especially the southern part of the state.
The WMO has indicated that the lingering impacts of multi-year La Niña are basically due to its long duration, and continuous circulation anomaly, which are different from the single-peak La Niña event. The El Niño event could fuel another spike in global temperature and the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet due to the warming of deep waters in the Antarctic shelf.
It is important to understand that El Niño and La Niña are not the only factors that drive global and regional climate patterns, and there are other factors that affect rainfall like the Indian Ocean Dipole and Eurasian snow cover. Greater clarity on El Niño will become available when the India Meteorological Department makes its first long-term forecast for the monsoon by April.
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