Meteorologists Watch for Signs of El Nino in Warmer Pacific Ocean

By | November 5, 2014

Weather conditions similar to El Nino will continue amid warming of the Pacific Ocean as thresholds for the event that brings drought to Asia and heavier-than-usual rains to South America may be reached by early next year.

Three of eight climate models may reach El Nino thresholds in January and another two remain just shy of the levels, the Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on its website, maintaining an Oct. 21 outlook. The forecaster kept a watch status, indicating at least a 50 percent chance of a weak to moderate event, it said.

The bureau has pushed back projections for the onset of El Nino as changes to the atmosphere have failed to develop consistently. A weak event will probably develop by year end, MDA Weather Services predicted last month. El Ninos can roil agricultural markets as farmers contend with drought or too much rain. Palm oil, cocoa, coffee and sugar are among crops most at risk, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has said.

“Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed over the past two months, and the Southern Oscillation Index has remained negative, but indicators generally remain in the neutral range,” the bureau said. “The existence of warmer-than-average water in the tropical Pacific sub-surface supports a continuation of the current near-El Nino conditions.”

El Ninos, caused by periodic warmings of the tropical Pacific, occur every two to seven years and are associated with warmer-than-average years. The last El Nino was from 2009 to 2010, and the Pacific has either been in its cooler state, called La Nina, or neutral since then.

While sea-surface temperatures are warmer than normal across most areas in the tropical Pacific ocean, it still doesn’t qualify as an El Nino, Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist at MDA said in response to e-mailed questions on Oct. 20. Some additional warming could lead to the development of a weak El Nino, he said.

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