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Weather Experts, Nation Await Possible Return Of El Niño

Posted March 18, 2002

— Weather experts, along with the entire nation, are awaiting the possible return of El Niño.

If you enjoy hurricane-free summers and cold winters, you might be an El Niño fan. If, on the other hand, you are hoping it will rain a lot this summer to alleviate the state's drought, El Niño might not be for you.

"If El Niño develops, we are likely to see fewer land-falling hurricanes. If this El Niño continues to develop throughout the year and lasts through next winter, then we would see a slightly cooler winter next year," N.C. State climatologist Dr. Lian Xie said.

El Niño is a warming of the sea surface temperature and the ocean temperature in the Pacific. WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss has to keep a close eye on whether this El Niño develops. While it happens in the Pacific, the phenomenon is strong enough to affect weather patterns in North Carolina and around the world.

"The occurrences of an El Niño affects where those troughs tend to be, where the ridges tend to be, how strongly amplified they are, how much cold air is brought in, how much warm air is brought in," Moss said.

An El Niño comes around about every four years. The last one was from 1997 to 1998.

"If we could time our El Niño somehow, it would be nice if we could get more of an El Niño effect in the winter next year heading into late 2002 and 2003 and then have El Niño kind of fade away by the next summertime," Moss said.

Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, who is known for his hurricane predictions, said the United States should have an above-normal hurricane season this year.

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