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The uncertainty of science: The periodic warm weather pattern called El Niño has finally arrived in the mid-equatorial Pacific Ocean, more than a year late and far weaker than predicted by scientists.
The announcement comes a year after forecasters first predicted that a major El Niño could be in the works. At the time, NOAA predicted a 50% chance that an El Niño could develop in the latter half of 2014. The agency also said the wind patterns that were driving water east across the Pacific were similar to those that occurred in the months leading up to the epic El Niño of 1997, which caught scientists by surprise and contributed to flooding, droughts and fires across multiple continents.
In the end, last year’s forecasts came up short, in part because the winds that were driving the system petered out. Researchers, who have been working to improve their forecasting models since 1997, are trying to figure out precisely what happened last year and why their models failed to capture it.
But remember, these same climate scientists are absolutely sure that their climate models can predict the temperature rise of the climate to within a degree one century hence. Yet, they have no idea why this El Niño turned out weak and late, even though it exhibited the same early features as the epic 1997 El Niño.