RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, a sector of the National Weather Service, have confirmed the arrival of the anticipated El Niño.

Image from Climate.gov

This naturally occurring climate event, characterized by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures near the equator in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, typically takes place every 2-7 years and greatly influences global climate patterns.

The past three years saw an unusual “triple dip” La Niña, which significantly affected worldwide weather patterns and likely contributed to the recent active hurricane seasons.

Thursday marked the official transition from this La Niña phase to an El Niño, a shift forecasted by consistent indications of warming waters in the central Pacific Ocean in global climate models.

The onset of El Niño usually signals unfavorable conditions for tropical weather development during the Atlantic Hurricane Season, a significant factor for weather forecasts.

Despite the presence of above-average sea surface temperatures from the Gulf of Mexico through the Atlantic, the accurate prediction of El Niño led forecasters to anticipate an average hurricane season.

During an El Niño event, the southeastern United States typically experiences warmer and drier conditions in the summer. However, El Niño’s most pronounced effects are felt during winter months, particularly December, January, and February. Although these impacts can persist regionally for several months, the phenomenon is known to reach its peak intensity in winter.

There is an 84% probability of a moderate-strength El Niño or greater by winter, with a 56% chance of a strong El Niño developing.