Return of El Nino? Surprising news for 2017 hurricane season

The Climate Prediction Center officially declared the La Nina climate pattern kaput last week.

It was really no surprise as La Nina was particularly weak this go around and the impacts may prove negligible in the long run.

Satellite image of Hurricane Hermine on Sept. 1, 2016

Satellite image of Hurricane Hermine on Sept. 1, 2016

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But what was a surprise was the center’s forecast for a possible resurrection of El Nino by fall.

Related: Watch funeral for the Godzilla El Nino 

While Earth is currently in a neutral pattern, climate experts said “there are increasing odds for El Nino toward the second half of 2017.”

The last El Nino, which was so strong it was nicknamed “Godzilla”, was in 2015-2016.

It’s unusual to have another El Nino so quickly, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert with Colorado State University. But if it does appear, it may mean a less active hurricane season this year.

Related: How El Nino boosts winter storms in South Florida 

“From a hurricane perspective, it’s hugely important,” Klotzbach said. “If we do get a moderate to strong El Nino, hurricane season will be pretty quiet.”

Debris and boats are scattered across the road after Hurricane Hermine passed the area on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 in Steinhatchee, Fla. (Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

Debris and boats are scattered across the road after Hurricane Hermine passed the area on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 in Steinhatchee, Fla. (Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

El Niño is characterized by abnormally warm sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

The warmer ocean waters change weather patterns to create stronger winds across the Atlantic. At its warmest, the key area measured for El Niño was 2.3 degrees Celsius — or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit — above normal.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, coined the nickname Godzilla for the 2015-2016 El Nino.

He said he thinks the return of the climate pattern this year may be more of a hangover than a completely new cycle. Usually after El Nino, the warm water Pacific waters slosh back toward Indonesia and La Nina comes on strong.

Patzert said this La Nina was more of a “La Nada.”

El Nino creates stronger westerly winds that can work to shred hurricanes in the Atlantic during storm season.

El Nino creates stronger westerly winds that can work to shred hurricanes in the Atlantic during storm season.

“There is a large scale stage in play that favors the El Nino because of this larger, longer lasting pattern of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation,” Patzert said.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, can be a decades long period where the Pacific Ocean is in a warmer or cooler phase.

As far as El Nino’s return? Patzert said forecasters will know more after spring.

“Don’t cash in your 401K just yet and bet on El Nino,” he said. “El Nino forecasts can be almost as bad as hurricane forecasts in the springtime.”

The 2015 hurricane season marked an unprecedented 10 years with  no hurricane landfalls in Florida. In 2016, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Big Bend region and Southeast Florida had a close call with Hurricane Matthew in October.

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