El Niño may be forming in Pacific

The El Niño weather pattern -- which can bring global weather chaos, including droughts and floods -- could develop within weeks, Reuters reported. Conditions were favorable for a switch to El Niño conditions during June to August 2009, forecasters in the United States said. El Niño is driven by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean.


The forecast, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, is the latest warning of the increased chances of El Niño developing after months of rising ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific. Sea-surface temperatures have risen for the fifth consecutive month, the center said, while sub-surface temperatures also have increased.


Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that if recent trends in Pacific climate patterns held up, there was an over-50% chance that an El Niño event would be established by July. El Niño occurs when the eastern Pacific Ocean heats up, with warmer, moist air moving east, leaving drier weather in the western Pacific and Australia and putting crops at risk of failure.


The most devastating El Niño was in 1997-98, when it caused drought in Australia and Indonesia and floods in Peru and Ecuador. El Niño also can bring wetter weather to parts of the United States and can affect the monsoon in India.


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