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NOAA satellite image of El Niño taken Feb. 3, 2003.February 6, 2003 — The moderate strength El Niño, which has influenced the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season and U.S. fall and winter weather, appears to be weakening, according to scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. They said the United States is expected to feel its impacts through early spring 2003. (Click the NOAA satellite image for larger view of El Niño taken Feb. 3, 2003. The warm sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean are represented in red. You can see the change in sea surface temperatures from the previous NOAA satellite image below taken Jan. 6, 2003. Please credit “NOAA.”)

NOAA’s El Niño Diagnostic Discussion, released February 6, reports some weakening of El Niño during January 2003. Recent evolution of the Pacific Ocean temperatures near the equator, together with statistical and coupled model forecasts, indicate that El Niño will continue to weaken between February and April 2003. Near-normal sea surface temperatures should return to the equatorial Pacific during May through October 2003.

NOAA satellite image of El Niño taken Jan. 6, 2003. The warm sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean are represented in red.“The 2002-2003 El Niño has had less punch than its 1982-83 and 1997-98 predecessors,” said Jim Laver, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. (Click the NOAA satellite image for larger view of El Niño taken Jan. 6, 2003. The warm sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean are represented in red. Please credit “NOAA.”)

“Most of the U.S. has experienced El Niño’s typical impacts,” said Laver. Increased storm activity brought drought relief to many areas in the southern and eastern U.S. during the late fall and early winter. And, despite some recent colder air outbreaks, the 2002-03 winter has demonstrated the warmer and drier influences characteristic of El Niño in many parts of the northern U.S.

While southern California has not experienced the wetter-than-average conditions associated with 70 percent of El Niño episodes, NOAA scientists note such precipitation has occurred typically from late January through early March. “It’s still a little soon to say that California won’t experience this impact,” said Laver.

Differences in the distribution and strength of ocean temperature departures contribute to event-to-event variability in impacts. Continued oceanic and atmospheric research, and the development of improved climate models are necessary to improve predictions of El Niño impacts, Laver added.

The El Niño/Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion is a team effort consisting of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (lead), Climate Diagnostics Center, Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Climatic Data Center, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is one of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which is part of the NOAA National Weather Service. The Climate Prediction Center predicts and monitors El Niño and also produces the nation’s official long-range outlooks and medium-range weather forecasts.

The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion

El Niño to Play Role in Nation’s Fall, Winter Weather

Weekly El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Update

Most Recent 2 Months Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Animation

El Niño and La Niña-related Winter Features over North America

NOAA's El Niño Theme Page

NOAA's El Niño Home Page



ENSO Fact Sheet

ENSO Frequently Asked Questions

ENSO Tutorial

ENSO Recent Events

Sea Surface Temperature Outlook

ENSO Impacts by Region

NOAA's Storm Watch — Get the latest severe weather information across the USA

NOAA's Drought Information Center

Media Contacts:
Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, (301) 763-8000, ext. 7163