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El Nino 2014 continues on track; massive Pacific quakes reported

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Events are separate, unrelated. Scientists continue to watch closely

Conditions continue to develop which strongly hint at a significant El Nino event this fall and winter, and swarms of strong earthquakes began erupting Monday in two locations across the Pacific Ocean.

Sea surface temperature anomaly data continues to show large areas of warmer than average sea water in key areas; just west of equatorial South America and extending in a plume westward along the equator for thousands of miles across the Pacific. Long range precipitation models, which were updated last week, now hint even more strongly than previously for above average precipitation across the southwestern U.S. beginning about September, 2014.

Additionally, another significant area of warmer than average Pacific ocean temperatures has been noted off the coast of southeast Asia. The possibility of this patch combining forces with the South American warm patch presents an interesting scenario—a situation which could lead to hemispheric changes in jet stream steering currents this fall and winter. Instead of storms being guided along usual tracks (generally north of the 40-45th parallel) the entire Pacific Ocean could be crossed by warm subtropical-air enhanced storms at latitudes as low as 35 degrees north or even lower. This would send winter storms directly into central and southern California, potentially bringing an end to years of devastating drought there and across much of the southwestern U.S.

Statistically, this is also supported because what is known as a zonal (straight-line west to east) winter storm pattern has been notably absent across the eastern Pacific for the last several years. Strong high pressure probably due to colder water has shunted winter Pacific storms through the Pacific Northwest with extreme dryness elsewhere as a result.

In addition, a third area, or hotspot of warmer than average seawater has developed on both side of the Baja California peninsula; this has already likely accounted for the unusual intensity of two hurricanes in this region since May. There is the chance that the 2014 eastern Pacific hurricane season could be notably enhanced by this development. Late summer rains might be more abundant in portions of Arizona and adjacent regions.

Strong earthquakes shake Pacific regions.

After a long period of relative quietness, a series of strong earthquakes began Monday in two locations. First, a series of relatively shallow quakes (20 km) began with a 6.9 shock in the southern Pacific some 620 miles northeast of New Zealand. There have been numerous strong aftershocks in the 4 to 5 magnitude range. These quakes have been distant from populated areas, reports seem to suggest that there has been no significant damage or injury.

A powerful quake measuring 7.9 in the southwestern Aleutian Islands on Monday has also been followed by numerous aftershocks mostly in the 3 to 5 magnitude range at varying depths. Because of the greater depths of this series of quakes, it appears significant damage has not occurred. However, the threat of ocean-borne tsunami activity prompted regional warnings and advisories, which have since been lifted.

There is some speculation in the scientific community that the two Pacific quakes may be related due to the closeness in timing, but this will require further research.