NOAA has announced that warming is being observed over the Tropical Pacific, which could lead to an El Nino by early spring. The U.S. is not expected to see the impact until late summer, and they will last through the fall and into next winter.

NOAA cautions that it?s too early to predict the magnitude of the 2002 El Ni?o, or how long it will last. ?The magnitude of an El Ni?o determines the severity of its impacts,? says Vernon Kousky, NOAA climate specialist. ?At this point, it is too early to predict if this El Ni?o might develop along the same lines as the 1997-98 episode, or be weaker.?

There is cloudiness and precipitation occurring over the equatorial central Pacific for the first time since the 1997-98 El Ni?o. Indications for an El Ni?o in the Tropical Pacific were first noted in August 2001. ?Considering the observed oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns and their recent evolution, it seems most likely that warm-episode conditions will develop in the tropical Pacific over the next 3-6 months,? says Kousky.?The first region on the globe to experience El Ni?o?s impacts would be in the tropical Pacific. Indonesia is likely to realize some relief from torrential rains. If El Ni?o develops as is presently indicated, the Pacific northwest will experience wetter than normal conditions in the fall. In the winter, Louisiana eastward to Florida, and possibly southern California, could also experience wetter than normal conditions, and the northern Great Plains will experience warmer than normal conditions.?

The last El Ni?o took place in 1997-1998 and was extremely severe. In the U.S. it brought flooding rains in California and along the Gulf Coast. Historically, El Ni?o episodes have occurred every two to seven years and can last up to 12 months.

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