PhotoExperts say they see clear scientific indications of a coming El Niño in coming months, with the questions now focusing more on its size and potential damaging impacts rather than whether one is coming.

“We may be in for quite a ride here.”

It’s the closing statement from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Josh Willis in this month’s “This is Not Cool” video on El Niño by independent videographer Peter Sinclair.

The five-minute video opens with a Weather Channel meteorologist defining just what an El Niño is — “a warming of the central and eastern Pacific equatorial waters, very difficult to predict, certainly as far as the strength is concerned.”

Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR, in Boulder, Co., says “something is going on in the tropical Pacific Ocean right now that I don’t think we’ve seen since the 1997-98 event.”

“The big question that’s out there,” Trenberth, says, is not whether this year will be marked by an El Niño but rather “how large is it going to be … as big and as destructive” as the 1997-98 event?

One anticipated impact of a strong El Niño is a year or more of higher global mean temperatures. “We can say with great confidence this year is going to be very different from quite a number of years we have seen this century,” says Trenberth.

Just how different remains to be seen. So, as Willis advises … Buckle up for “quite a ride.”

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