Farm Progress

Odds increase for El Nino weather shift

Climate center predictions could mean fewer hurricanes and much-needed drought relief.

Bloomberg, Content provider

April 14, 2023

2 Min Read
Drought-cracked soil

By Brian K. Sullivan

U.S. government forecasters issued an El Nino watch as the odds increased that the weather-changing phenomenon will arise over the Pacific Ocean, raising the prospects of a below-average Atlantic hurricane season as well as heavy rains and searing heat across multiple regions of the globe. 

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center raised the likelihood of an El Nino emerging between August and October to 74% from 61% a month ago. El Nino is when the equatorial Pacific warms and reacts with the atmosphere to disrupt weather patterns. One common knock-on effect is increased wind shear in the Caribbean tearing at budding hurricanes there.

“The latest model guidance came out and it was impressive,” said Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center. “Our Spidey sense perks up when we are seeing a lot of model agreement.”

Colorado State University is calling for a below-average 13 named storms in the Atlantic this year, in part because of the possibility of El Nino. Six of those systems could become hurricanes, and of those two may reach major status with winds of 111 miles per hour or more, by the time the six-month Atlantic season ends on Nov. 30. 

A storm is named when its winds reach tropical-storm strength of 39 mph. 

Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook chart

In addition to blunting the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes, El Nino could bring relief to drought-parched areas of Argentina and the southern U.S. while blanketing parts of Asia and Australia with hotter, drier conditions. Coffee, tea, and cocoa crops would be especially vulnerable. 

L’Heureux cautioned that models at this time of the year have a higher chance of being wrong. “We don’t quite have 20-20 vision in the spring and we are working with incomplete information,” she said.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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