The infamous El Niño weather pattern, which can trigger droughts and flooding in some regions, could make a comeback this year.
Government forecasters issued an alert Thursday saying there’s a 50 percent chance that warming El Niño conditions will develop during the summer or autumn — potentially bringing rain to drought-stricken California and the South, as well as fewer hurricanes along the East Coast and higher temperatures across the globe.
The last El Niño watch was in 2012, although it fizzled out unexpectedly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But when the weather phenomenon struck in 1997-98, it was blamed for all sorts of calamities, from devastating floods in South America to droughts in Southeast Asia.
The El Niño cycle can take up to seven years to develop as weak trade winds allow warmer water from the Pacific to move east as part of a climate event that usually sticks around nine months to a year.
The unusual weather may also exacerbate rising global temperatures and wreak havoc on food supplies, experts say.
“This could be a substantial event and I think we’re due,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told The Associated Press. “And I think it could have major consequences.”
He warned that if this next El Niño proves to be a strong one, global temperatures could hit record high territory in 2015.
— Erik Ortiz
First published March 6 2014, 12:20 PM