PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


EL NINO WARMING COULD AFFECT PACIFIC WEATHER

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, September 16) – Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center reported September 12 that El Niño conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific and are likely to continue into early 2007.

The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. Ocean temperatures increased remarkably in the equatorial Pacific during the last two weeks, according to a NOAA press release.

El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle and is sometimes called a Pacific warm episode. El Niño originally referred to an annual warming of sea surface temperatures along the west coast of tropical South America.

The cool phase of ENSO is La Niña, a periodic cooling of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. These conditions affect weather patterns around the world.

"Currently, weak El Niño conditions exist," said Vernon Kousky, NOAA's lead El Niño forecaster, "but there is a potential for this event to strengthen into a moderate event by winter."

Some impacts from the developing El Niño already are evident in the pattern of tropical precipitation. During the last 30 days, drier-than-average conditions have been seen across all of Indonesia and Malaysia and most of the Philippines, areas that are usually first to experience ENSO-related impacts. The dryness probably will continue for the rest of 2006.

Weak El Niño conditions could explain less active Atlantic hurricane season

Typical El Niño effects are likely to develop over North America during the upcoming winter season. They include warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada, and over the western and northern United States.

September 18, 2006

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