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El Niño Shows Signs of Returning This Year May 25, 2012
El Nino graphic
Above-normal ocean temperatures have expanded off equatorial South America during the past few weeks.
Australia’s meteorological service says its climate models indicate that the El Niño ocean-warming phenomenon may return later this year, replacing the stubborn La Niña that has altered global weather patterns for the past two years.

El Niño brings its own set of weather disruptions, typically including drought from Australia to Indonesia and potent winter storms to the western United States.

"Nobody is going to say that the models are 100 percent accurate, but if you look at the climate models, the risk of El Nino has gone up in recent weeks," said Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The World Meteorological Organization remains cautious about Australia’s climate projections, saying its outlook points to no significant variation in ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific later this year.

But the eastern Pacific has already been abnormally warm during the past few weeks off the coast of Peru, where El Niño got its name.

The warm currents have sent sardines and other cool-water fish elsewhere, leaving fishing nets empty and seabirds dying of starvation.

The warmth extends northward to Central America and westward into the Pacific beyond the Galapagos Islands, according to the latest satellite observations.

Photo: NOAA