A strong El Niño is developing in the equatorial Pacific, and it has the potential to break the record El Niño of 1997-98, a spokesperson for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) told 7NEWS.
Matt Rehme, with NCAR's Visualization Lab in Boulder, created the video below comparing the last "Super El Niño", to the one that is brewing right now.
So far, the sea surface temperatures have mirrored 1997-98 very closely. "I was a little shocked just how closely 2015 resembles 1997 visually," Rehme said.
El Niño is the warming of sea surface water at the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It changes some of the circulations in the atmosphere, which in turn, change weather patterns. The most noted change comes to areas south of the equator, but some very memorable events have occurred here in the U.S. as well.
The record-breaking El Niño of 1997-98 started out with a bang here in Colorado. A tremendous snow storm struck October 24-26. It blanketed several states, the Denver metro was left with 14 to 31 inches, and 24 to 48 inches fell in the Colorado foothills. It ranks as the 7th biggest snow storm to ever hit Denver. It should be noted that Colorado went on to have just an average winter in terms of snowpack, though.
Another memorable event from the last big El Niño, was the Tornado Outbreak in Central Florida. In February of 1998, nine tornadoes struck, killing 42 people.
Also during that winter, a severe ice storm hit the northeast causing nearly $2.5 billion in damage, and flooding in California resulted in $550 million in damages.
There is not enough evidence to show that El Niño patterns have a certain effect on the weather in the United States. Even if this year's El Niño takes the title as the strongest ever, there is no guarantee that it will result in a noticeable change for us here in the U.S., especially in Colorado. Temperature and precipitation do not really deviate far from average.
Each El Niño event results in some unique conditions that are not consistent with the last, but there is no denying that there have been some extreme storms that have occurred during strong El Niño years.