Greener BeeGreen TipsGreen Tips: ENSO Cycles in the CNMI

Green Tips: ENSO Cycles in the CNMI

Category: Green Tips

ENSO cycles occur every 2-7 years, and have three phases. These are:

•       El Nino Phase – This phase includes more tropical storms, hotter temperatures, lower sea levels, and drought.   Weather is unpredictable in the El Nino phase.

•       Neutral Phase: Weather is typically more mild and windy, with normal amounts of rainfall.

•       La Nina Phase. This phase is colder and wetter than normal. Flooding may be more likely to occur in the Pacific during the La Nina phase.

Right now, Saipan is at the end of the El Nino phase, which means it’s hot and dry in Saipan.

Why?   The ocean water in the Pacific is hot! During an El Nino phase water temperatures warm below the surface, and water circulation patterns which bring cool water from the Eastern Pacific to the Western Pacific shrink. This means that less cool water comes across the Pacific to Saipan, and the hot water that is here stays here. It also means that water below 150 feet deep, which is normally cool, heats up.   Another element of this weather is the trade winds. The trade winds normally cool Saipan down by blowing cool air towards Saipan. During El Nino they don’t blow as hard. In extreme El Nino phases they blow away from Saipan. Hot water and less wind mean Saipan is hotter than normal.

Saipan is also dry at the end of El Nino.

Warmer sea surface temperatures and lower air pressures mean that less rain is created in the atmosphere.   Rain is created when water vapor in the atmosphere cools, but during an El Nino year in the Western Pacific the air is hot. This makes it harder to cool the water vapor in the atmosphere and there is less rain. When this happens drought occurs.  

Currently, Saipan is experiencing a drought brought on by El Nino. Many Pacific Islands are experiencing this drought, but it is the worst in Palau and in Yap, where it was the Driest October—March on record.   In Saipan we are about 40% below the normal amount of rain for April to June.   Without this rain our freshwater supplies are saltier than normal, and there is more chance of fires from stray sparks. Fires can be dangerous and degrade our natural resources, but we can all work together to help prevent them[EMD1] . Please be careful and be aware!

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