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El Niño could develop June – August 2009

Posted by feww on June 5, 2009


NOAA scientists today [July 9, 2009] announced the arrival of El Niño, a climate phenomenon with a significant influence on global weather, ocean conditions and marine fisheries. El Niño, the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters, occurs on average every two to five years and typically lasts about 12 months. See NOAA Press Release

The El Niño weather pattern can cause global weather chaos by exacerbating droughts and floods.

Conditions are favorable for a transition from ENSO-neutral to El Niño conditions during June – August 2009, US Climate Prediction Center says.

During El Nino, rainfall and thunderstorm activity diminishes over the western equatorial Pacific, and increases over the eastern half of the tropical Pacific. This area of increased rainfall occurs where the exceptionally warm ocean waters have reached about 28°C or 82°F. This overall pattern of rainfall departures spans nearly one-half the distance around the globe, and is responsible for many of the global weather impacts caused by El Niño.

El Niño occurs when the eastern Pacific temperatures rise above average, and the forecast says conditions are now favorable for a switch from ENSO-neutarl to El Niño conditions between June and  August 2009. The forecast warns that by end May 2009 sea surface temperatures (SST) had increased for the fifth consecutive month, rising to “above-average” in the  equatorial Pacific Ocean.

The 1997-98 El Niño/Southern Oscillation was one of the most severe ENSO events in history. It caused widespread drought in Australia and Indonesia and floods in S. America, especially Ecuador and Peru.

FEWW Moderators estimate that a new episode of El Niño, which would have devastating impact globally, could cause up to $500 billion in damages.

Graphical depiction of the four Niño regions. [Source: NOAA/  National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction Climate Prediction Center]


For regular updates see comments section below.

Related Links:

5 Responses to “El Niño could develop June – August 2009”

  1. feww said

    El Niño Updates are now posted weekly and the links are added to the main El Niño page at

  2. rafaely said

    [Please resend your message in English. Moderator]

  3. feww said

    El Niño conditions is in progress —NOAA

  4. feww said

    El Nino weather pattern increasing says Australia
    Wed Jul 8, 2009 12:49am EDT
    By Michael Perry
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – The development of an El Nino weather pattern is increasing and at this stage may be a medium-strength event, but it could take months for it to be officially declared, Australia’s weather bureau said.

    “We are warming reasonably rapidly. The models tend to suggest something reasonably warm,” said Andrew Watkins from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, which issued its latest El Nino report on Wednesday.

    “It doesn’t look weak, but then again it doesn’t look like it will be at the levels of the 1997/1998 event either,” he said.

    The last severe El Nino in 1998 killed over 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and Asia. It struck in the middle of the Asian financial crisis which roiled financial markets.

    India, one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of everything from sugar to soybeans, is already experiencing weaker annual monsoon rains. Its faltering sugar crop is a prime reason why sugar prices are at their highest levels in three years.

    An El Nino is also a major risk to wheat production in Australia, palm oil output in Indonesia and Malaysia, and rubber in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Output of palm oil and rubber has already fallen this year due to adverse weather.

    “Conditions have reached a point that, should they persist at such levels through the remainder of the southern winter and into spring, 2009 will be considered an El Nino year,” said the bureau’s report titled “Strong indicators of El Nino persist.”

    The bureau said there was “very little chance of the current development stalling or reversing.”

    The 2009 El Nino is developing as the world struggles to emerge from the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression of 1929.


    El Nino, meaning “little boy” in Spanish, is driven by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean and creates havoc in weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region.

    It is associated with drought conditions in parts of Australia and Asia and wetter-than-normal weather in parts of South America.

    “Most of the indicators show an El Nino is developing in the Pacific. I would not say it is accelerating, but it’s definitely increased,” Watkins told Reuters.

    “The warm sea surface temperatures and the warm ocean temperatures, looking at them instantaneously, if you arrived from the Moon you’d probably say that looks like an El Nino,” he said.

    “I guess we are going fairly close to saying it is an El Nino, but you have to be a little cautious because an El Nino is a longer timeframe thing.”

    The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), a key factor in an El Nino and calculated from monthly and seasonal fluctuations in air pressure between Tahiti and Darwin, eased in June to negative 2 from a negative 5 in May.

    Malaysian crude palm oil futures dropped as much as 1.7 percent to touch a new 3-month low on Tuesday after news of the indicator easing, with the market viewing signs of a weaker El Nino as positive for the prospects of higher production.

    Indonesia, one of the biggest producers of palm oil, is already facing drought.

    Australia’s weather bureau said the easing in the SOI was only temporary due to a high pressure system near Tahiti or what meteorologists call “weather noise.”

    “We are fairly confident, given ocean conditions, the SOI will unfortunately start to fall fairly soon. In fact, the latest daily value has started dropping again,” said Watkins.

    “There is still a clear warming trend nothing has really eased back in the main indicators.”

    Australia’s weather bureau said India’s monsoon, the lifeblood of the country’s huge farming sector, will likely remain weak according to the Madden-Julian Oscillation index, which gauges the eastward progress of tropical rain.

    India’s monsoon rains have now covered all of the country, but the country’s Meteorological Department said last week that as of July 1, rains were 29 percent below normal.

    India’s farm economy may be hit by a bad drought if the monsoon remains weak, with the window for plantings closing by mid-July, says a U.S. Agricultural Department attache report.


    A brewing El Nino may further dent shrinking rubber supplies in Southeast Asia and keep prices high at a time when demand is struggling to recover from the global financial crisis.

    A developing El Nino is also a major risk to wheat production in Australia, but is unlikely to have a material impact on global wheat prices, said Rabobank, a specialist in agribusiness, earlier in the week.

    Strong northern hemisphere production would help to make up for any shortfall from Australia in the event of El Nino reducing the harvest in the world’s fourth-largest exporter, it said.

    Australia’s wheat crop is forecast at between 21 and 23 million tonnes this year and industry analysts were confident there would still be a decent crop given strong rainfall in some growing regions in recent weeks.

    “If the wet weather continues over the next couple of months, we will be in a better condition to weather a moderate El Nino system,” said Richard Koch, managing director of farm advisory firm Profarmer.

    It’s not long since the country’s farmers were battling the worst drought in more than 100 years, resulting in an annual harvest just 10.6 million tonnes in 2006/07.

    For more information:

    (Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in Perth)

    (Editing by James Thornhill)

    © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

  5. feww said

    Emerging El Nino set to drive up carbon emissions
    Tue Jul 7, 2009
    By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Across the globe an emerging El Nino weather pattern threatens to cause droughts and floods and trigger a spike in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning forests.

    El Nino is a warming of tropical Pacific waters that affects wind circulation patterns. Its effects on the global climate vary from one event to the next.

    Trying to predict how El Nino will be affected by global warming is a major challenge, scientists say, although data shows El Ninos have become more frequent and more intense over the past three decades. The last event was in 2006.

    “I don’t think there are any studies that are saying El Nino will become less severe but there is disagreement among the climate models on whether they will become more severe or stay steady,” said Matthew England of the Climate Change Research Center in Sydney.

    Getting the forecasting right is crucial for farmers in planning their crops, and even for the oil industry in assessing storm risks in the Gulf of Mexico.

    “Certainly we know from past climates that El Nino intensity has varied. As climate changes, we know that the intensity of El Nino can wax and wane over long time scales,” he said.

    Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said last week an El Nino was almost certain this year and the signs point to one already well underway. A formal declaration could be within days.

    (For more details see the bureau’s website at:

    One of the biggest threats from El Nino comes from the release of vast amounts of greenhouse gases through the burning of dried out forests.

    Scientists say there is very strong correlation between El Nino and drought in Southeast Asia, which has large areas of carbon-rich peat forests.

    “People are waiting for appropriate conditions to get rid of the forests,” said Pep Canadell of the Global Carbon Project in Canberra.

    “So the drier the El Nino the more incentive there is for people to take advantage of those unique conditions,” he said. Most of the burning occurs in Indonesia.


    During the very intense El Nino of 1997/98, fires in Southeast Asia released between 2.9 billion 9.4 billion metric tons of CO2, blanketing the region in a choking haze. The smoke equated to between 15 and 40 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and is credited with causing a spike in global temperatures.

    By comparison, average annual emissions from forest fires in Southeast Asia between 2000 and 2006 were 470 million metric tons of CO2, while average fossil fuel emissions for the same period in the region were 543 million metric tons of CO2, said Canadell.

    Over the past two years, forest fire emissions have plunged because of wet weather.

    “I think the next El Nino we have here in Southeast Asia is going to be a big one in terms of emissions,” said Canadell, whose project issues annual reports on the planet’s “carbon budget.”

    “The longer it takes for an El Nino to come, the bigger the emissions will be because the more people will be keen in burning because they have been waiting all this time.”

    The effects of the current El Nino, if confirmed, could already be apparent in the weakening of equatorial trade winds that normally blow strongly east to west and in the amount of cloud in the eastern Pacific.

    “As El Nino is developing right now we should start to experience its impacts as we speak,” said Harry Hendon, a senior climate scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne.

    “Historically our biggest impacts are in the (southern) spring. But we start to see them as early as winter,” he said.


    Normally, warm ocean water is piled up in the Pacific around east Asia causing rain and moisture-laden winds that flow over parts of Australia.

    But during El Nino, the warm waters migrate east toward South America, taking the wet weather, often causing floods in Colombia, Ecuador and elsewhere.

    It’s unclear how intense the next El Nino will be but Hendon said even weak El Ninos can have a dire impact on rainfall in Australia, depending on where the warm water pool was in Pacific.

    “El Ninos that are peaking in the central Pacific have a bigger negative impact on rainfall on Australia than El Ninos that peak further east,” said Hendon.

    Complicating the picture, scientists now know there are at least two types of El Nino, one in which the warm waters pile up against the Pacific coast of equatorial South America, and the other in which warmest of the waters are in the central Pacific.

    Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States released a study last week showing that periodic warming of the central Pacific was linked to an increase in Atlantic hurricanes, a finding that could change the way oil firms assess storm risks for operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Previously, El Ninos in general were thought to suppress hurricane activity, but the latest research suggests this is only for episodes where the warmest waters are off the South America.

    “The fundamental problem is we don’t simulate El Nino very well with our existing climate models,” said Hendon. “That makes it a real challenge to run your model for a future climate and see how El Nino will behave.”

    (Editing by Alex Richardson)

    © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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