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El Niño 2015-2016: Impacts From El Niño

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In this handout from NOAA, Hurricane Kilo, Hurricane Ignacio and Hurricane Jimena are visible in the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 31, 2015.

In this handout from NOAA, Hurricane Kilo, Hurricane Ignacio and Hurricane Jimena are visible in the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 31, 2015.

This year one of the most frequently asked questions to weather people is, “when does El Niño start?”

The answer is it’s already here and it’s affecting the environment around the globe.

Early in March, NOAA declared the onset of El Niño. At the same time 1,050 sea lion yearlings were being rescued mostly along the Southern California coast. Although the El Niño had only recently been called, the Pacific was already undergoing dramatic warming. According to NOAA fisheries, changes in sea surface temperatures can significantly impact the food chain. A typical year would find sea lion pup rescues in the hundreds. With the strong El Niño, 2015 has seen more than 3,340 rescues and counting.

This summer, we’ve experienced numerous rare marine animal sightings in Southern California waters. According to NOAA, the warmer El Niño-fueled waters are perfect for tropical species such as humpback whales, blue and yellow fin tuna and more. Of course most of these species are moving into our waters chasing food. As prey moves northward into cooler waters, large predators follow.

In August, a meteorological first occurred in the central and eastern Pacific basins as three giant Category 4 hurricanes churned around Hawaii. This was the first time since records were kept that we’ve seen three powerful storms active at the same time. No doubt the El Niño this year has already generated tremendous warming, which is stirring up these weather anomalies.

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