El Niño Returns
A rapid and unforeseen temperature rise of one degree Celsius in the equatorial Pacific is likely to herald another El Niño. The warming of the ocean is already having a noticeable impact on the weather in Southeast Asia, with below-average rainfall in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It also reduces hurricane activity in the Caribbean and Atlantic.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Pacific warmed up within just one to two weeks, which threw previous forecasts of an at best weak El Niño overboard. According to the agency, the corresponding climatic and oceanic conditions will continue into 2007 and will bring a milder winter to parts of the United States and Canada. At the same time, as wind shear increases over the Caribbean Sea, the 2006 hurricane season may continue to be calmer than forecast and end earlier than last year.
El Niño originally stood for the annual Christmas warming of the eastern Pacific off Peru's coast, where cold deep waters commonly rise. Every three to seven years, this rise in temperature is more significant and longer-lasting, triggering unpredictable weather conditions around the world and bringing heavy rainfall to the Peruvian coastal desert, for example, while the Southeast Asian rainforests suffer from drought and become susceptible to fire.