An El Niño is building in the tropical Pacific that’s on track to culminate in coming months. Forecasters have been discussing the possibility that it might become one of the strongest such events in recorded history, possibly even surpassing the historic 1997-98 El Niño, which produced weather extremes around the world. Matt Rehme of the Visualization Lab at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) created the video above. It compares sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific in 1997 to those in 2015, as the two El Niños built. Rehme said in a September 3, 2015 statement from NCAR:
I was a little shocked just how closely 2015 resembles 1997 visually.
No one knows if the current El Niño building its peak now will live up to the hype, but sea surface temperatures are key to gauging the strength of an El Niño, which is marked by warmer-than-average waters. The NCAR statement said:
Even if this year’s El Niño goes on to take the title for strongest recorded event, there’s no guarantee that the impacts on weather around the world will be the same as they were in 1997-98. Like snowflakes, each El Niño is unique. Still, experts are pondering whether a strong El Niño might ease California’s unrelenting drought, cause heatwaves in Australia, cut coffee production in Uganda, and impact the food supply for Peruvian vicuñas.
And more. Stay tuned.
Bottom line: Video comparing this year’s emerging El Niño with the record-breaking El Niño of 1997-98.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.