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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – El Niño is back, even if it’s weak! Warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, if they persist, could mean a less active hurricane season for us this year.

The latest analysis suggests that a weak El Niño could continue to develop over the next few months. Even though this event occurs thousands of miles away it can still have an impact on the weather conditions here in South Florida.

Amy Clement is a Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Rosensteil School on Virginia Key. When asked why that was the case she says, “The Pacific is like a heat engine of the climate system. When you change that it can have a ripple effect throughout the atmosphere.”

El Niño occurs on average every two to seven years with the last event taking place just about three years ago and was classified as a Strong El Niño while the current event is not expected to be nearly as strong.

Typically in the Southeastern US, we can see above normal precipitation with below average temperatures.

A stronger more persistent Pacific jet stream that forms due to the warmer ocean can also lead to more severe storm events moving across the region. “It’s not perfectly correlated,” says Clement when asked if these features are observed with every El Niño.

“Every time the Pacific warms up you don’t always have the same response,” she adds.

So far the cooler than average temperatures have not developed here in the Miami area with much warmer weather being observed.

There have been a few rain storms which have led to the drought ending. The big question will be if the current El Niño persists, what could that mean for hurricane season.

With the stronger winds across the Caribbean and Atlantic as a result of the warmer ocean in the Pacific, it does lead to more wind shear which can work against tropical cyclones forming.

It is not uncommon to see lower than average number of hurricanes during El Niño years but the important thing to note is that there will still be hurricanes.

“Just because there is an El Niño going on does not mean that there will not be hurricanes,” says Ben Kirtman also a professor at the Rosensteil School.

“There may still be a few. It just reduces the chances of formation.” An important point since even with a few storms the chances of a major storm making landfall are still there and preparations should be no different than any other year.

The current forecasts continue.

The current weak to moderate El Niño over the next few months but the uncertainty in the forecasts increase throughout the spring and into the start of hurricane season.

Typically, the most accurate predictions for the state of El Niño for the peak of hurricane season aren’t available until July, after the hurricane season is well underway.

Dave Warren

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