El Nino could be returning - WFLA News Channel 8

El Nino could be returning

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Tampa Bay's National Weather Service office will monitor El Nino Tampa Bay's National Weather Service office will monitor El Nino
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The weather pattern known as El Nino could be developing right now.  In its latest report, the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, has issued an El Nino Watch, and it gives the global climate pattern a 65 percent chance of developing this summer.

The report claims the latest model forecasts are indicating an increased likelihood of El Nino compared to model predictions from just last month. Further in the report it states, "There remains uncertainty as to exactly when El Nino will develop and an even greater uncertainty as to how strong it may become."

El Nino develops every two to seven years when the strong winds over the Pacific Ocean relax or slow down. When these winds decrease, warm surface water is allowed to flow back toward the coast of South America.

"We're going to be monitoring the water temperatures over the eastern Pacific Ocean.  During this year, we're seeing those temperatures starting to increase," said Brian LeMarre, meteorologist in charge at Tampa Bay's National Weather Service office.

As that water temperature increases, it affects the climate patterns around the world. Some areas experience wetter than normal weather which can lead to flooding while other areas of the globe are stricken with drought.

During El Nino periods, the jet stream across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean is enhanced.  This stronger jet stream can rip apart or weaken hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. Typically, there will be fewer tropical systems during an El Nino event. It is important to note that if El Nino does develop this summer, it would be at its strongest during the upcoming winter.

"At the start of hurricane season, we'll probably be in that neutral El Nino pattern where we have been. That neutral pattern can still be very active," said LaMarre.

Which means that the potential El Nino may not have much of an impact on the early months of hurricane season.  The Tampa Bay area has historically been affected by early season storms.  Just last year, Tropical Storm Andrea brought strong wind and flooding to parts of Tampa Bay in June. In June of 2012, Tropical Storm Debby caused flooding and spawned tornadoes.

If El Nino does form, it will still impact climate patterns into the winter as well.  For Tampa Bay, El Nino winters typically have more severe storms.

"What we saw during February of 1998, we were still in a strong El Nino pattern, and we saw a record tornado outbreak," said LaMarre.

The Climate Prediction Center will continue to monitor the water temperature off South America's Pacific coast. As the water there warms up, the world could be welcoming in another El Nino event.

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