The world could be headed for one of the strongest El Niños in recorded history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)said Thursday. A strong El Niño event would disrupt weather patterns across the globe, boost global temperatures—and help relieve California’s historic drought.
El Niño, a climate phenomenon triggered by unusually warm temperatures along the equatorial Pacific, affects weather across the planet. The warmer Pacific surface temperatures are above the norm, the more significant forecasters predict El Niño will be. This year, climate forecasters observed sea surface temperatures more than 3.6°F (2°C) above average across the east central Pacific Ocean. That level of heat has only been recorded three times in the last 65 years, and all three occurrences matched with strong El Niño events.
“Since March above normal sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have continued to increase,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, on a conference call for journalists. “We’re predicting this El Niño could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record.”
“This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” added Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.