Record-breaking ocean temperatures and a predicted El Niño keep forecasters on their toes

As ocean surface temperatures soar to record highs, the World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday it expects a shift towards El Niño by this fall, which could shake up weather patterns and trigger more extreme weather events in the United States and other regions. parts of the world.

Meteorologists expect El Niño’s temporary pattern to alter precipitation patterns, raise average air temperatures and contribute to more intense storm systems. The El Niño pattern, which is a temporary and natural climate anomaly, will override warming attributable to human-caused climate change. Both trends are pushing average air and sea temperatures higher.

Daily sea surface temperatures last month reached levels not seen in at least four decades of record, according to a visualization of data from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

“As surface temperatures rise, that adds more fuel to the atmosphere, and that fuel is heat and moisture,” said John Abraham, a professor and program director at the St. Thomas University School of Engineering who studies surface temperatures. oceans. “Intensify weather patterns. It means the weather becomes more extreme.

The combination of El Niño and the long-term global warming trend could produce new record global temperatures and exacerbate the impacts of climate change.

For the past three years, the world has been stuck in a La Niña trend, which has offered something of a respite. WTO forecasters say the trend is now neutral but expect there is an 80% chance El Niño will catch on by September.

“We have just had the eight warmest years on record, although we have had a cooling La Niña for the past three years and this has acted as a temporary brake on global temperature rise,” the secretary general of the US government said in a statement. ‘OMM Petteri Taalas.

Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center released an El Niño watch and forecast similar to the WMO’s.

El Niño is associated with cool, wet weather in the southern United States and warm conditions in the northern states. Parts of the United States, such as the Ohio River Valley, could see a prolonged dry spell as El Niño takes hold.

Ocean temperatures are determined by analyzing data from a network of monitoring buoys and robotic devices that track temperatures as they travel up and down within the ocean. These devices send data to researchers and help meteorologists predict the weather.

Rising sea surface temperatures are an indication of the El Niño transition.

“They’re blowing doors off the previous record,” Abraham said of those measurements. “Ocean warming is the most important thing determining the weather. So, this isn’t a problem for seals and polar bears; it is a problem for us, for our societies and for agriculture”.

The oceans absorb most of the energy from human-caused warming. More than 90 percent of the thermal imbalance in Earth’s energy inventory ends up in the oceans, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ocean surface temperatures tend to fluctuate and are subject to short-term trends and natural climate variability such as El Niño. But much of the added heat is contained beneath the sea’s surface, said Sarah Purkey, assistant professor of physical oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

“Ocean heat content is the most important metric we should be paying attention to when we think about climate change because it’s really at the heart of what this global imbalance is,” Purkey said. Beneath the surface, “we’ve had this really constant warming signal.”

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