Scientists Describe 'new' El Nino Pattern

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 25 (UPI) — A new type of El Nino phenomenon with its warmest waters further west is becoming more common and progressively stronger, a study by U.S. researchers says.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle say the new El Nino has its warmest waters in the central-equatorial Pacific Ocean rather than in the eastern-equatorial Pacific, a JPL release said Wednesday.

“These results suggest climate change may already be affecting El Nino by shifting the center of action from the eastern to the central Pacific,” NOAA’s Michael McPhaden said. “El Nino’s impact on global weather patterns is different if ocean warming occurs primarily in the central Pacific, instead of the eastern Pacific.”

“If the trend we observe continues,” McPhaden said, “it could throw a monkey wrench into long-range weather forecasting, which is largely based on our understanding of El Ninos from the latter half of the 20th century.”

The El Nino effect can influence global weather patterns and the occurrence and frequency of hurricanes, droughts and floods.

“It is important to know if the increasing intensity and frequency of these central Pacific El Ninos are due to natural variations in climate or to climate change caused by human-produced greenhouse gas emissions,” JPL researcher Tong Lee said.

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