NOAA: El Niño to arrive late, but in time to help

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NOAA: El Niño to arrive late, but in time to affect tropical storm development

An El Niño weather condition could form a little later than originally expected this summer but will likely still be in time to help put a dampening effect on tropical storm development.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said that although sea surface temperatures are above normal across the entire equatorial Pacific Ocean, other conditions in the atmosphere have yet to develop to indicate El Niño formation.

“This has put a little bit of a slowdown on how soon we think El Niño will develop,” said Stephen Baxter, a meteorologist and seasonal forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, during a monthly federal climate call last week.

Even with that slowdown in development, El Niño is still expected to develop during the summer and continue on into the winter, he said.

El Niño weather conditions develop when there are warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which result in weather patterns that, for Louisiana, mean greater chances of wind shear to slow down tropical storm development.

Although it’s still possible to have a major storm during an El Niño year, such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992, generally El Niño conditions mean fewer or weaker tropical storms during the season.

The likelihood of the El Niño formation is part of the reason the NOAA Climate Prediction Center is calling for a near- or below-average 2014 hurricane season. It started June 1.

The outlook released in late May called for the possibility of eight to 13 named storms this season, of which three to six could become hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, there’s a chance that one or two could become major hurricanes of Category 3, 4 or 5, with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.

The average season — based on storms from 1981 to 2010 — includes 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10