Strong El Nino in Pacific May Be Reaching Maturity, U.S. Says

  • El Nino forecast to linger through first part of 2016
  • The weather-changing system could begin to fade by spring

A strong El Nino across the equatorial Pacific may be peaking.

Most forecast models predict the El Nino will continue through the Northern Hemisphere’s winter before starting to fade in the late spring, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said earlier this week that some El Nino indicators are showing signs of easing, indicating the phenomenon is near its peak, although sea surface temperatures are still near record highs.

“El Nino has already produced significant global impacts and is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States in the upcoming months,” the center said Thursday.

For the U.S., the greatest El Nino impact comes in the winter. The phenomenon will likely bring more rains from California to the mid-Atlantic coast because it typically pushes the winter storm track farther south. In addition, El Nino could mean a milder winter across the northern U.S. and a chillier one in parts of the South.

More rain in California could help ease a four-year drought there, while warmer conditions in the North are likely to help keep natural gas prices low by reducing heating demand.

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