The Pacific region is officially experiencing an El Niño event, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that Texas and most of the central US is due for more soaking from the vast region of warm water that has developed in the south Pacific. This El Niño is unusual, in that the phenomenon would usually be ending at this time of year. Sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific are continuing to warm, which is expected from an El Niño. The temperature has also risen by 1°C over the past three weeks–an increase not seen since the 1980s, when there were back-to-back El Niño events. The current temperature rise is also rivaling that of the 1997 super El Niño, and the effects are being experienced unexpectedly early in the central US. Since global average temperatures hit new records in 2014, it’s forecast that El Niño may push those records even higher this year, and if this event does result in back-to-back El Niños, 2016 may be even hotter still.
It’s possible that the El Nino will be powerful enough to affect the California drought, but at present the unusually high temperatures in the north central Pacific are forcing it eastward on a southerly track that crosses Mexico and moves up through the Gulf of Mexico into the US. According to NOAA, there is a better than 90% chance that El Nino will continue through the fall, and an 85% chance it will persist into the winter.