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The Return of El Nino?

Josh Larson @ 6:45 PM

There are very early indications at an El Nino may be developing in the central Pacific. The Climate Prediction Center reports that sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in a key strip of the central Pacific were 1 degree Celsius above normal for the month of July.

This in and of itself does not constitute an El Nino, however. Indeed, the CPC described the above-normal temperatures as indicating the possible "early stages of a warm episode" or El Nino. Dr. Vernon Kousky of the CPC believes that there is a 50% that SST anomalies will qualify for the threshold of an El Nino event for the period June to August.

It is important to note that SST's are running above normal, but scientists have not yet noted a significant atmospheric response to the oceanic warming. All the more reason that the scientific community is holding its breath before declaring that we are actually experiencing an El Nino.

What effect may a developing El Nino have on our area? Very little, in truth. Dr. Gray, a hurricane expert from Colorado State, and his team of scientists and researchers, released their updated tropical activity forecast for the remainder of the summer: because of the somewhat above-normal SST's in the central Pacific, which may develop into an El Nino, they have bumped their forecast for tropical activity for the remainder of the summer down just a bit, as El Nino conditions tend to suppress tropical activity. However, note that they still forecast above-normal tropical activity for the rest of the season, with the East Coast at especially heightened risk.

In fact, the tropics have suddenly seen a burst of activity, with, at present: Tropical Storm Bonnie in the Gulf of Mexico and a tropical depression (TD #3) in the open Atlantic north of Venezuela, which is expected to track to the west-northwest and towards the Gulf of Mexico over the next 5 days. A friend points out the possibility that either current tropical cyclone has the potential to interact with a mid-latitude trough complex, which could spell problems for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic over the next 10 days.

For a much more detailed analysis of the El Nino event which may be developing, you'll definitely want to check out a story I wrote for USA called "New El Nino may be developing in Pacific."

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