Strong El Niño not Likely This Year

NinoClimate scientists are pouring cold water on speculation that a strong El Niño conditon was developing in the Pacific, lowering the chances of wetter than usual weather in some places, from the Galápagos Islands to drought-parched California.

The U.S. Federal Climate Prediction Center, in its latest forecast, said there is still about a 65% chance of an El Niño forming by winter but that it will be of the mild-mannered variety.

A few months ago, some scientists had suggested that rising ocean temperatures in the Pacific had signaled the possibility of a strong El Niño this fall, but that didn’t pan out.

“Certainly expectations have declined from what folks were saying earlier in the year,” Mike Halpert, acting director of the center, told the New York Times.

In the Galápagos Islands, past El Niño events have destroyed coral reefs.  In addition, they disrupt the marine food supply, causing algae beds to die, starving marine iguanas, turtles and fish. Birds, including blue footed boobies, albatrosses and frigates, must scramble for sustenance as the ocean waters are deprived of nutrients.   The same is true for marine life.

“Species that are on the border of survival or extinction might actually be tipped over the edge,” Dr. Stuart Banks, a marine scientist with the Charles Darwin Foundation, told Galápagos Digital in April.  “We’ve already seen several possible extinctions.”

Those worries have been eased by this new forecast, although in parts of the planet that need rain, there’s disappointment.

“It’s a flop,” said NASA climatologist Bill Patzert, who monitors ocean temperatures from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where most of the state is in the middle of an extreme drought.