Monday, December 7, 2015

Waiting for El Niño

Every two to seven years, trade winds shift and sea surface temperatures warm in the Pacific, creating the meteorological event. As conditions change, they trigger a domino effect of disruptive weather patterns worldwide. This is referred to as El Nino.
Normally, trade winds blow east to west across the Pacific Ocean. This pushes warmer water towards the western edge and allows cooler water to rise up toward the surface on the eastern edge. During El Niño events, trade winds weaken or change course, pushing that warm ocean water on the west further east across the ocean, bringing rainfall and rising surface temperatures along with it. Typically in the United States El Nino produces wetter and colder winters in the south  while the north experiences warmer and drier winters. On a global scale, El Nino can cause heat waves and devastating droughts in the western Pacific region or heavy rains and flooding in the eastern Pacific region. El Niño conditions can also boost hurricane activity in the Pacific, but reduce it in the Atlantic.