Climate troublemaker El Niño is forecast for this coming fall and winter, the Climate Prediction Center announced Thursday. The agency said there's a 65 percent chance it will form by the winter, prompting it to issue an El Niño watch.
In the U.S., a strong El Niño can result in a stormy winter along the West Coast, a wet winter across the South and a warmer-than-average winter in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains.
“Conditions are now favorable for the emergence of El Niño sometime in the next six months,” Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster with the prediction center, told Bloomberg News. “The watch hinges on that word, ‘favorable.’ We’re just above the threshold that we want to see to issue a watch.”
El Niño is a periodic natural warming of ocean water in the tropical Pacific that impacts weather in the U.S. and around the world. Globally, the climate pattern can bring dry conditions to Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.
In South America, Brazil can get drought, while Argentina may get more rain, Bloomberg said.
Its effects typically peak between January and March in the U.S.
During an El Niño, water temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean get a few degrees warmer than average for an extended period of time – typically at least three to five months.
Forecasters say there's a 50 percent chance El Niño will develop during the late summer or early autumn. If it forms by then, it could help suppress the number of hurricanes that form in the Atlantic during that time.
However, El Niños tend to increase hurricane activity in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which can affect Mexico, the U.S. Southwest and Hawaii.