The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced that an El Niño climate pattern could occur later this year, which might exacerbate global warming and break temperature records globally. Although the WMO has not predicted the strength or duration of the El Niño, it has forecast a 60% chance of its formation between May and July, and an 80% chance between July and September.
El Niño and La Niña Weather Patterns
The El Niño and La Niña weather patterns have opposite effects on climate and weather patterns. Both events result from ocean temperature variations in the Equatorial Pacific and are part of the intermittent El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO). An El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern characterized by warmer-than-normal ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It is typically associated with increased rainfall in parts of southern South America, the southern U.S., the Horn of Africa, and central Asia. However, it can also cause severe droughts in Australia, Indonesia, and southern Asia.
El Niño and Hurricane Development
In the Atlantic Ocean, El Niño has traditionally hindered tropical cyclone development and prompted less intense hurricane seasons. However, during the Boreal summer, its warm water can fuel hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
Impact of El Niño on Global Temperature and Climate
An El Niño typically lasts from nine to twelve months and occurs every two to seven years on average. It often peaks in December and January, with its impact on global temperatures tending to play out in the year following its arrival. The WMO has reported that 2016 remains the warmest year on record due to the “double whammy” of a powerful El Niño event and human-caused climate change.
Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of the WMO, has warned that the Earth just experienced the eight warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event over the past three years that acted as a temporary brake on global temperature rise. Taalas said 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. He added that the El Niño is also associated with increased drought or rainfall in different parts of the world.
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