The likelihood of El Niño developing later this year (2023) is increasing according to a new update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This would have the opposite impacts on weather and climate patterns in many regions of the world to the long-running La Niña and would likely fuel higher global temperatures.
The unusually stubborn La Niña has now ended after a three-year run and the tropical Pacific is currently in an ENSO-neutral state (neither El Niño nor La Niña).
There is a 60% chance for a transition from ENSO-neutral to El Niño during May-July 2023, and this will increase to about 70% in June-August and 80% between July and September, according to the WMO update.
WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas said, “We just had the eight warmest years on record, even though we had a cooling La Niña for the past three years and this acted as a temporary brake on global temperature increase.
“The development of an El Niño will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records.”
Professor Taalas said, “The world should prepare for the development of El Niño, which is often associated with increased heat, drought or rainfall in different parts of the world. It might bring respite from the drought in the Horn of Africa and other La Niña- related impacts but could also trigger more extreme weather and climate events.”
El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It occurs on average every two to seven years and episodes usually last nine to 12 months.
El Niño events are typically associated with increased rainfall in parts of southern South America, the southern US, the Horn of Africa and central Asia. In contrast, El Niño can also cause severe droughts over Australia, Indonesia, and parts of southern Asia.