The U.S Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is forecasting an end to El Niño conditions providing a relief to the Panama Canal water crisis.

The national weather service reports that a transition from El Niño to ENSO-neutral is likely by April-June 2024 (79% chance), with increasing odds of La Niña developing in June-August 2024 (55% chance).

The Panama Canal is monitoring the development of weather events affecting water availability in the canal watershed. The Canal experienced unusually low water levels due to the drought induced by the El Niño phenomenon.

A severe drought that began last year has forced authorities to slash ship crossings in the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most important trade routes. This comes at a time when traffic through the Suez Canal has been significantly disrupted.

In December, rains in the last quarter of the year allowed the waterway to suspend further restrictions that would have been applied in January.

The forecast team is in agreement with the latest model guidance, as CPC notes, with some uncertainty around the timing of transitions to ENSO-neutral and, following that, La Niña.

There are indications for a transition to ENSO-neutral during spring 2024, with La Niña potentially developing during summer 2024.

Even though forecasts made through the spring season tend to be less reliable, there is a historical tendency for La Niña to follow strong El Niño events.

Throughout January 2024, above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continued across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. SST anomalies weakened slightly in the eastern and east-central Pacific, as the national weather service CPC highlights.

Atmospheric anomalies across the tropical Pacific also weakened during January. Low-level winds were near average over the equatorial Pacific, while upper-level wind anomalies were easterly over the east-central Pacific.

Convection remained slightly enhanced near the Date Line and was close to average around Indonesia. Collectively, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system reflected a weakening El Niño.