Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Join as a sustainer before 7PM TODAY and get a chance to win a $1,000 Airbnb gift card!

Forecasters Warn El Nino Could Be The Strongest In Recent Decades


And, Renee, I get to sit next to you in the studio this morning. It's so much fun when you spend some time in Washington over the summer, although I'm sorry about the humid weather we always have here.


Well, I always think it's worth it because it is great to be here. Though, this year, I feel right at home because Los Angeles this summer is humid. I just left major humidity, which is a first. And people are saying welcome to Florida to each other, which also has everyone thinking this.


DR. ELMO: (Singing) You can blame it on El Nino. Things are getting hot. You can blame it on El Nino, that kooky act of God.

GREENE: Oh, yes, "You Can Blame It On El Nino" by Dr. Elmo, paying tribute to the crazy weather that hit the U.S. in the late 1990s.

MONTAGNE: El Nino is a familiar phenomenon in California. It's a warming phenomenon in the tropical Pacific Ocean which can trigger powerful changes in the weather - actually, all over the world. Eighteen years ago, El Nino brought flooding in California, tornadoes in Florida and a warm winter in the Northeast.

AMY CLEMENT: I was actually a graduate student at that time, and it was really exciting getting calls from the media about El Nino.

GREENE: That's Amy Clement who was getting those calls in '97. She's a professor of marine and atmospheric science at the University of Miami. We called her now to ask about the return of El Nino, which she says could be as powerful this year as the one that led to that song.

CLEMENT: It does look like the coming months, according to our models, will be wetter in California, and hopefully that will play out for them this year.

MONTAGNE: Amy Clement also says it could be a balmy winter in the Midwest and Canada. And Florida might actually catch a break this year.

CLEMENT: Typically, the hurricane season in the Atlantic is less active when there's an El Nino event. But we always have to remember Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was actually during a small El Nino event.

GREENE: She says, in fact, the only thing really predicable about El Nino is that it keeps coming back. El Nino springs up every few years when temperatures in the Pacific creep up.

CLEMENT: That warming seems to be triggered by a change in the trade winds. The trade winds that blow from east to west actually weaken somewhat and that weakening allows the ocean to accumulate heat.

GREENE: Well, the first sign of El Nino is that Amy Clement gets more phone calls from the media.

CLEMENT: (Laughter) It's replaying exactly the same way. Although, I shouldn't date myself now that I get calls every 20 years from the media.

GREENE: That's Amy Clement. She's a professor of atmospheric and marine science at the University of Miami.

Professor, thanks so much.

CLEMENT: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.