TIME weather

El Niño Likely To Hit This Summer

Cattle gather on a strip of dry land in low-lying areas of the Bolivian Amazon, after heavy rains from the El Nino weather phenomenon on Feb 22, 2007 in Beni, Bolivia. The rains affected 350,000 people, destroyed valuable agriculture and killed 23,000 cattle.
Cattle gather on a strip of dry land in low-lying areas of the Bolivian Amazon, after heavy rains from the El Nino weather phenomenon on Feb 22, 2007 in Beni, Bolivia. The rains affected 350,000 people, destroyed valuable agriculture and killed 23,000 cattle. Martin Alipaz—EPA/Corbis

That could mean fewer destructive hurricanes on the East Coast.

The El Niño weather system is likely to begin by August, the top U.S. weather agency affirmed on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there’s a 70 percent chance of an El Niño onset in the Northern Hemisphere this summer, and an 80 percent chance that it will occur by winter. The agency says the weather system is expected to peak at weak to moderate levels around late fall.

The latest report affirms earlier predictions of El Niño occurring this year. The system could lead to overall warmer temperatures across the globe next year, while also causing droughts in Australia and an heavy rainfall in South America and parts of East Asia. El Niño has also been associated with an uptick in hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific.

But as TIME’s Bryan Walsh reported last month, El Niño could be good news for the hurricane-prone East Coast. Walsh explains:

El Niños occur when the waters of the equatorial Pacific undergo unusual warming, which in turn affects atmospheric circulation and weather around the world. That includes hurricanes in the Atlantic: El Niño increases the strength of westerly winds across the Atlantic, which creates a lot of wind shear. (Wind shear is the difference between speed and direction of wind over a short distance.) That high wind shear can disrupt tropical storm systems before they’re able to gather a lot of power, which makes it difficult for major hurricanes to form.

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