According to the statement from the Climate Prediction Center, continued warming of equatorial waters over the past several months has verified the weather phenomenon is well underway and adds that "nearly all of the dynamical models predict a moderate-to-strong El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-10."
This forecast coincides with today's launch of the new event website for the 2010 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy. The site features video and still photos of numerous massive waves from swell events worldwide over the last four months, including epic rides in Mexico during the south swell which rocked the west coast of North America less than two weeks ago.
The Billabong XXL Awards honors the biggest and best rides from anywhere in the world based on the photographic evidence. The competition runs through the end of winter in March with the winners announced (and over $130,000 in prize money handed out) at a gala awards presentation each April.
El Niño conditions can affect the global climate in a number of ways including suppressing the development of Atlantic hurricanes and bringing drought-like dryness to Indonesia.
But to surfers a strong El Niño can mean supercharged storms in the North Pacific Ocean, bringing extraordinary high surf episodes to Hawaii and the West Coast of the US. Some of the biggest waves ever recorded were produced during the hallmark El Niño seasons of 1969/70, 1982/83 and 1997/98.
As the condition strengthens, visual proof of the big waves has already appeared in the form of fresh entries into the 2010 Billabong XXL Awards from an array of venues including Peru, Chile, Mexico and various coasts of Australia.
Leading the pack at this very early point in the annual XXL proceedings would likely be Greg Long of San Clemente, California who won the Billabong Pico Alto Invitational in Peru and then jetted to Puerto Escondido, Mexico to conquer what were assuredly among the biggest beachbreak waves ever ridden.
Long is no stranger to the Billabong XXL stage, having won more XXL titles than any surfer in history, including the Surfline Best Overall Performance Award in 2004 and 2008, the Monster Paddle Award in 2008 and just last April the $50,000 Ride of the Year.
Also making their mark this year are the women, who drew first blood in two categories. The first Ride of the Year entry received at XXL headquarters was the video clip of Layne Beachley's outrageous tuberide at the notoriously shallow break known as "Ours" off Maroubra, in Sydney, Australia.
The seven-time world champion could well challenge for the Billabong Girls Best Overall Performance Award with a few more solid follow-up waves in the coming months. Also making an impact as the first XXL tow-in entry of the new season is Argentina's Mercedes Maidana at El Buey in Arica, Chile.
Categories in this year's event include the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year, XXL Biggest Wave, Monster Paddle, Monster Tube, Surfline Best Performance, Billabong Girls Best Performance and the crowd-pleasing Verizon Wireless Wipeout of the Year.