El Niño may be back this fall, but climatologists aren’t yet predicting big weather changes.
"No one is sure how intense it’ll be yet, but it looks weak to moderate now," said Kent Frantz, a service hydrologist for the National Weather Service based in Peachtree City. "If it’s weak, there will be a few more showers than normal, and winter is the time to recharge stream flows anyway."
The Climate Predication Center issued an advisory on Thursday saying ocean and atmosphere conditions across the Pacific Ocean indicate the development of El Niño conditions through the winter.
The weather phenomenon is characterized by the warming of the waters of the eastern and central Tropical Pacific, which affects atmospheric conditions worldwide.
"Current conditions and recent trends favor the continued development of a weak-to-moderate strength El Niño into the Northern Hemisphere Fall 2009, with further strengthening possible thereafter," according to the statement.
The Pacific has been in a "neutral state," but forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the sea surface temperature climbed to 1.8 degrees F above normal along a narrow band in the eastern equatorial Pacific in June.
The prediction center said temperatures in other tropical regions are also above normal, with warmer than usual readings as much as 975 feet below the ocean surface.
Kevin Laws, a meteorologist in Birmingham, Ala. said the system will affect the Deep South region as a whole. The jet stream in El Niño years particularly hits the southern one-quarter of the country, from California to Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Statistically, an El Niño fall and winter is associated with cool and wet winters in south Georgia, assistant state climatologist Pam Knox said.
"But there is no correlation between El Niño and north Georgia weather conditions, so I would not expect Gainesville to show any particular bias towards colder, warmer, wetter or drier conditions," she said.
"The association of cool and wet conditions in south Georgia has to do with the position of the subtropical jet stream, which settles over the region of south Georgia and Florida in El Niño winters and brings up a lot of rain and clouds over the winter months. The clouds contribute to the cooler than normal conditions."
In a study recently released by Peter Webster, a Georgia Tech professor of atmospheric sciences, a newer El Niño could actually increase the number of hurricanes rather than reduce them.
Pacific Ocean conditions affect the wind shear, the change in direction and speed of wind between different altitudes, in the Atlantic Ocean.
"El Niño typically inhibits tropical weather because of wind shear" which cuts off the top of a hurricane, Frantz said. In Webster’s study, the new El Niño could move the wind shear west, contributing to an increased number of hurricanes.
Although it’s early in the hurricane season, conditions looks quiet, Frantz said.
"This season has been near the normal season, but it could pick up after July," he said.
The Climate Predication Center will release an updated El Niño advisory on Aug. 6.
Associated Press contributed to this report