As El Niño weakens, NWS issues La Niña Watch


Recent rain showers provided relief to some parts of the CNMI but the National Weather Service continues to forecast below normal yearly rainfall amounts on the islands as the current El Niño event passes its peak and is slowly weakening, and could transition to La Niña later this year.

In its latest drought information statement, NWS said computer models indicate that below normal rainfall will continue in the next couple of months in the CNMI.

“Water supplies need to be monitored very closely and water conservation is highly encouraged. Drying and yellowing of food crops and vegetation will become worse and grass fires will increase. Livestock on Tinian may become stressed as food sources dry up,” NWS said.

“Water wells on Saipan could see an increase in salinity as the drought progresses,” it added.

In a board meeting last week, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. reported that some of their water wells on Saipan have been experiencing “fast drawdown issues” which means the volume of water is dropping, according to CUC acting executive director Gary Camacho.

Camacho added that one of their water sources, Donni Springs, which is among the main supplier for Garapan, has completely dried up.

From a production of up to 500 gallons per minute to 57 gallons per minute in February, it is now down to zero.

According to NWS, the drought associated with the weakening El Niño will continue to affect some Micronesian locales into the late spring and early summer.

“Climate model projections do indicate with high confidence that the El Niño pattern will persist until late spring, then transition to ENSO-neutral by the summer months and likely to La Niña status late in the year,” NWS said.

La Niña Watch

The NWS-Climate Prediction Center together with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society issued a La Niña Watch with their latest El Niño Advisory.

A La Niña Watch is issued by CPC when conditions are favorable for the development La Niña conditions within the next six months.

According to CPC, rainfall and thunderstorm activity diminishes over the central equatorial Pacific, and becomes confined to Indonesia and the western Pacific during a La Niña event.

The watch said that “La Niña is favored to develop during the Northern Hemisphere summer of 2016, with about a 75 percent chance of La Niña during the fall and winter 2016-17.”

It added that sea surface temperature anomalies decreased across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, especially in the eastern Pacific during the past month. The observed anomalies reflect a weakening El Niño and a trend toward ENSO-neutral conditions.

“Most models predict the end of El Niño and a brief period of ENSO-neutral by early Northern Hemisphere summer,” CPC said.

“However, there is clear uncertainty over the timing and intensity of a potential La Niña,” it added.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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