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NOAA satellite image of sea surface temperatures for Sept. 3, 2001.September 7, 2001 — NOAA researchers and scientists are presently monitoring the formation of a possible weak El Niño and predict that the United States could experience very weak-to-marginal impacts late winter to early spring 2002. The latest (September 2001) edition of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion, indicates the presence of some initial El Niño features in oceanic and atmospheric analyses. The researchers caution that at this early stage there is a great deal of uncertainty about the timing and intensity of the next El Niño. (Click NOAA image for latest view of sea surface temperatures.)

"Although slightly warmer-than-normal ocean waters are being observed in the equatorial Pacific, current conditions in the tropical Pacific are closer to neutral than either El Niño or La Niña," said NOAA's Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Dr. Vernon Kousky. "Over the last two months we have been monitoring warmer than average temperatures in the tropical central Pacific, but slightly warm sea surface temperatures alone do not make an El Niño."

August climate data indicate that the waters in the central equatorial Pacific, near the International Date Line, have averaged at least 84 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately 1.0 degree Fahrenheit above normal. Researchers say they have not seen any changes in the global temperature and precipitation pattern that would be consistent with an El Niño.

El Niño is an abnormal warming of the ocean temperatures across the eastern tropical Pacific that affects weather around the globe. El Niño episodes usually occur approximately every four-five years. It has been a little over four years since the last El Niño event.

For NOAA to officially announce the formation of an El Niño, researchers and scientists would base their decision on a number of conditions, such as: persistent weakening of the trade winds, precipitation over the warmer than normal waters and sustained sea surface temperatures of—at least—a degree Fahrenheit above normal for a number of consecutive months. NOAA will continue to monitor the situation and issue monthly updates in the Climate Prediction Center's ENSO Diagnostic Discussion.

Relevant Web Sites
El Niño Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion

ENSO Fact Sheet

ENSO Frequently Asked Questions

ENSO Tutoiral

ENSO Recent Events

Sea Surface Temperature Outlook

ENSO Impacts by Region

NOAA's El Niño Page

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