There’s a 70 percent chance El Niño will return to the United States this year, and early data suggests it could warming up to be a mighty one.
“We have above-normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and that often precedes an El Niño because there’s a large volume of above-average water temperature below the surface of the ocean,” Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, told ABC News. “Volume often tends to come up to the surface; often, but not always.”
“That’s the uncertainty,” Barnston adds. “It’s more likely to rise than not.”
Barnston suggests El Niño will likely El Niño between April and June and last until the start of 2015.
Globally, the return of El Niño could make 2014 the warmest year on record, with billions of dollars in losses for food crops. It could also increase drought in Indonesia and ignite more wildfires in Australia.
Domestically, however, El Niño could bring a wetter-than-normal season on the West Coast and in the South. Though it would be welcomed relief from the current drought conditions plaguing these areas, it could also lead to flooding and mudslides.
The last big El Niño event was 1997-1998, which ended up causing $3 billion in agricultural damage. Read more here.
In early March, federal forecasters issued an “El Niño watch,” indicating a 50 percent chance El Niño would develop this summer or fall. Click here for more.