This image illustrates in red, where the waters are warming near the equator throughout the Pacific Ocean.
This phenomenon was first discovered by fishermen from Peru decades ago as cold water fish would disappear from their coast due to the warming waters. They called it "El Niño", because the warming would occur most often during Christmas, so they named it after the Christ child.
Throughout the world, heavy rain can be expected in normally arid areas, as well as drought conditions in typically wet places. Temperatures can fluctuate as well.
So what does this mean for us in South Florida?
- During El Niño years, vertical shear, or strong upper winds increase making it harder for hurricanes to form, and those that do, tend to be weaker.
- Strong upper winds tend to keep most storms away from land.
If this pans out, it could be a more tranquil hurricane season. Lets keep our fingers crossed.
What do the official forecasts say?
Here is where it gets tricky. Models are split over the emergence of "El Niño".
- The dynamical models, including the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS), largely favor the development of El Niño by July-September 2012.
- The majority of statistical models however, predict near normal sea surface temps in the Pacific through the end of 2012.
Experts are favoring the "El Niño" emergence later this summer. We will have to watch and wait.