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Understanding El Nino

WMO: El Nino strengthening, maybe biggest since 1950

Sunday, September 6, 2015, 3:00 - (Reuters) - The current El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to peak between October and January and could turn into one of the strongest on record, experts from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.

Climate models and experts suggest surface waters in the east-central Pacific Ocean are likely to be more than 2 degrees hotter than average, potentially making this El Nino one of the strongest ever. 

"A mature and strong El Nino event is now present in the tropical Pacific ocean. The majority of the international climate outlook models suggest that the 2015 / 2016 El Nino is likely to strengthen further before the end of the year. The peak strength of this El Nino expected sometimes during October 2015 to January 2016 could potentially place it among the four strongest El Nino events since 1950," Rupa Kumar Kolli, WMO climate applications and services division chief said. 

Climate scientists are better prepared than ever with prediction models and data on El Nino patterns. 

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The director of the World Climate research Programme David Carlson said the impact of this El Nino in the northern hemisphere was hard to forecast because there was also an Arctic warming effect at work on the Atlantic jetstream current. 

Carlson said that the ENSO (a warming of the ocean surface in the Pacific ocean accompanied by the Southern Oscillation) was growing and that the future effects were unknown.

Click below to watch: El Nino 1997 vs 2015 (via NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

"We are on a different planet and at the same time, we have less sea ice, we have less snow cover, so we start to see an influence of the Arctic on the Northern hemisphere's circulation, so the question is: as this ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) grows, and we believe it will grow, how will its effects around the world merge with or be impacted by this Arctic influence as well?," Carlson said. 

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Carlson said that this El Nino could also be followed abruptly by a cooling La Nina, which, along with the advance of global warming, was adding to the uncertainty.

But he added that it is still unclear how global warming is affected by the frequency or magnitude of El Nino events.

Since 1950, strong El Nino events occurred in 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98.

RELATED VIDEO: How the El Nino impact weather patterns across the US this winter

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