Early in 2011, computer models were predicting a Niño, albeit a weak one. In the end, the Pacific decided to give La Niña another turn at influencing global weather. No-one is sure what is in store for this winter. Most models say that, after two Niñas, sea temperatures imply a Niño is on the cards. A few suggest a third Niña is still a possibility. Others say it could be neither (La Nada). For the record, the United States National Weather Service has officially declared last year’s Niña to have dissipated.
Whatever, the cycle seems to be getting out of whack. For several decades, Niños have been coming more frequently, Niñas less so. Fingers point to global warming. But scientists caution that more research needs to be done before any direct correlation can be established. Satellite data go back only so far.
Circumstantial evidence, though, suggests that something new is underway. A variation of El Niño has been detected in the central Pacific, well away from the ocean's eastern edge where it is normally born. This phenomenon, known as El Niño Modoki (Japanese for “looks like, but slightly different from”), causes unusual effects—including a lowering of tide heights, a strengthening of waves, and a tendency to make storms move south.
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