Bye-Bye To The Boy, But Hurricanes Could Happen Later This Year.

Image courtesy of NASA. The large red area indicates an area of warmer water in the Pacific, known as El Nino which affects weather over a large area of the planet.
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The climate pattern known as El Niño (the boy), caused by a warm current in the Pacific Ocean,  is finally on its way out the door after a year when it pushed world temperatures to record highs.

That’s what weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Miami say–and they predict that conditions will likely switch to a La Niña (the girl)  pattern before the end of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

El Niño is marked by warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the Eastern Pacific, where large amounts of heat are released to the atmosphere. It’s why El Niño years are usually hotter. 2023 was the hottest year since records began and many places experienced new extremes of heat.

Scientists say that the combination of climate change and El Niño could set the stage for even worse heat waves, floods and droughts in the future.

The El Niño and La Niña patterns, which are natural fluctuations, also affect rainfall around the globe. In the Southwestern U.S., El Niño years are typically wetter, while La Niña years are drier, exacerbating drought conditions.

“What it ends up doing is shifting where the jet stream sets up across the mid-latitudes where we live,” DiLiberto says. “The jet stream acts like this storm highway and if you change where the jet stream goes, you change where the storms go.”

The current shift to La Niña could make the Atlantic hurricane season worse this year. Ocean temperatures are already warm there, which can help fuel the growth of storms. La Niña also typically reduces the wind shear in the atmosphere. Less wind shear makes it easier for hurricanes to build up strength as they make their way across the Atlantic and head towards the Caribbean.

The departure of El Niño doesn’t mean 2024 will necessarily end the recent streak of record-breaking temperatures, with the last eight years having been the hottest on record.

“Even while we shift into La Niña, we don’t see the impacts of that on global temperatures until later in the year,” DiLiberto says. “We should expect 2024 to probably be in the top five of warmest years on record.”

Sources: NOAA, NPR, CNN.
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