“The Pacific is in a really extreme configuration right now.” Compares to the El Niño of 1997, the strongest El Niño on record.
Thanks to El Niño, there’s a favorable chance that this winter will be wetter than average in southern California, said Mike Halpert of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
In the two strongest El Niños on record, 1982-83 and 1997-98, relentless damaging storms pelted California.
El Niño is a weather phenomenon characterized by warming Pacific Ocean waters west of Peru that cause changes in the atmosphere, and can dramatically alter weather worldwide.
Right now, the ocean is getting hotter.
On July 15, a key area in the Pacific Ocean measured 3 degrees Fahrenheit above average. It’s very similar to the reading taken on July 16, 1997 of 3.2 degrees F above average.
That has experts concerned, because the summer of 1997 ushered in the strongest El Niño in the modern record.
El Niño usually brings in a subtropical jet stream that runs over the jungles of southern Mexico and Nicaragua, said Bill Patzert, climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. That’s why Central America has rain forests.
This subtropical jet stream, which has already shifted to the north, is somewhat responsible for the devastating storms that pelted Texas and Oklahoma this spring and pushed those states out of drought, Patzert said.
However, the waters west of California and Mexico are much warmer than average — something that wasn’t seen in 1997, said Daniel Swain, climate scientist at Stanford University.
“This is not something we’ve seen in previous strong El Niños. This is a very unusual configuration,” Swain said. “The Pacific is in a really extreme configuration right now.”
With all that said, there’s no guarantee that this El Niño will act exactly like the one in 1997-98