El Niño-pocalypse: NASA Photo Shows 2014 Weather Event to be the Worst in Decades, Severe Than 1997?

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 16, 2014 2:28 PM EST

NASA's Earth Observatory has just released a new photo map pitting the ocean heights in the tropical Pacific in early May compared to May 1997. The 1997-1998 El Niño is recognised as one of the strongest ever.

REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga
A man gets out through the window of a car flooded by heavy rains in Cali March 12, 2014.

The photo map (here) showed the 2014 El Niño conditions seem to be developing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, similar to how the 1997-1998 weather event began.

NASA's satellites likewise have captured a rise of water in the eastern Pacific, which is a sign that generally precedes an El Niño, portal Climate Central said.

"Warm water is more voluminous than colder water, which causes oceans to rise. The swelling pool of water in that region is a telltale indicator."

"What we are now seeing in the tropical Pacific Ocean looks similar to conditions in early 1997," Eric Lindstrom, oceanography program manager at NASA headquarters, said. "If this continues, we could be looking at a major El Niño this fall. But there are no guarantees."

A network of sensors within the Pacific Ocean had supported the observations of the satellite view. The network showed a deep pool of warm water sliding eastward since January.

Scientists at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service (NWS) however still cannot finally predict that El Niño will indeed push through.

"There remains uncertainty as to exactly when El Niño will develop and an even greater uncertainty as to how strong it may become," NWS reported.

While forecasts continue to remain uncertain, "a strong event cannot also be ruled out," scientists from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society said on Thursday.

In the 1997-1998 El Niño, North America experienced one of its warmest and wettest winters on record; Central and South America had immense rainstorms and flooding; and Indonesia with other parts of Asia survived severe droughts.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga / )
A man gets out through the window of a car flooded by heavy rains in Cali March 12, 2014.
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