This week Evelyn Browning-Garriss, author of The Browning Newsletter, shares with us an update on El Niño: what it is, where it is and what its development would mean for rain in Texas and Oklahoma.
The developing El Niño is taking a pause.
Basically, an El Niño is when the Central and Eastern portions of the tropical Pacific are almost one degree Fahrenheit (technically 0.5˚C) warmer than average. This changes weather around the world. During April and May, these areas in the Pacific warmed very rapidly. Some experts even predicted that the event would be as huge as the 1997/1998 El Niño and that was the largest one in 400 years! Now, however, the western portions of the El Niño zone have cooled slightly.
What does this mean?
The Pacific is big, complex and filled with a lot of different currents. Around the equator, there are a number of small patterns, called MJOs (Madden Julien Oscillations) that drift from west to east. Some are hot and others are cool. One of the cool ones has entered the Central Pacific. It is cooling the western part of the El Niño zone. Next, it will drift east and cool the eastern portion of the El Niño. Then it will go away. It never stays in one place very long.
Right behind it is a warm MJO that will reheat the El Niño. El Niños always fluctuate when these MJOs ripple through them.
El Niños produce strong winds that suppress Atlantic hurricanes. The weakening of the conditions allowed Hurricane Arthur to develop and dash up the East Coast. The event should grow strong again in August and September, providing some protection during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.
At the same time, El Niños typically produce dry conditions in the Southern Plains during summer. Having the event delayed is good news for Texas and parts of Oklahoma.
Scientists around the world still agree the El Niño is on schedule to arrive and peak in winter, when it usually delivers strong rain to California, the Southwest and the Central and Southern Great Plains.
It may be weakening now, but it is hard to keep a good El Niño down. •
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