Records of temperature and extreme weather conditions loom large: ‘All conditions for El Niño exist’ | Science and the planet

The world will almost certainly be affected by the natural El Niño phenomenon. Scientists at the United Nations predict that this phenomenon, in which sea water temperatures rise around the Pacific Ocean, will cause temperature records and extreme weather conditions around the world. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) now declares that “all conditions are already in place” for an El Niño. The US Climate Prediction Center (NOAA) has already done so.

What is the natural El Niño phenomenon? Science journalist Martin Peters explains

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the chance is now “90 percent” for the weather phenomenon to occur between July and September, and it is likely to continue thereafter. Over the past three years, the Pacific Ocean has already cooled due to La Niña, an analogue of El Niño. In March, meteorologists had already concluded that that period was clearly over and ocean warming was imminent. The last El Niño event was in 2018-2019.

Temperature records, heavy rainfall, severe drought

The ocean has actually warmed sharply in recent months compared to the average temperature. “You can talk about El Niño only when the sea water is 0.5°C warmer than normal. If it’s above 2.0°C, it’s a super El Niño,” explains our science expert Martin Peters. “In NOAA’s latest update, the chance of a strong El Niño event was 56%. The greater the temperature difference, the greater the global impact of this natural phenomenon.”

That effect could be really big: “People are already expecting that we’re going to set a lot of new temperature records,” Peters says. He notes that this was also the case in previous years, but then during the La Niña period. “Now people expect more heat and even more temperature records.”

In addition to rising temperatures around the world, El Niño can also cause extreme weather events. “For example, you see more rain and floods in the eastern Pacific than, for example, in South America and the United States. In the West they suffer more from drought and heat. These are areas like Australia and Southeast Asia. Europe is relatively unaffected by the natural phenomenon.”


Why would there be such large impacts, for example, in Australia (heat and drought) and in the United States (cold and rain) and not in Europe? “We’re a long way from the Pacific,” Peters explains. As a result, the influence of El Niño will be less noticeable here. In Belgium, for example, we might expect a somewhat wetter spring. In general, we won’t notice much El Niño here, but we will see clear consequences all over the world.”

WMO assumes that the intensity of the phenomenon will be “at least moderate” and will continue to be felt throughout the year. However, the effect will become particularly evident in the coming year.

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During El Niño, the temperature of sea water off the coast of South America rises, with all its consequences.
During El Niño, the temperature of sea water off the coast of South America rises, with all its consequences. © Getty Images / Science Photo Libra


WMO also believes that there is a 66 percent chance that the average annual global temperature in the next five years will be 1.5 degrees higher than it was before the industrial age.

“This does not mean that we exceed the 1.5 degree target of the Paris climate agreement, because this agreement is about long-term warming that lasts for several years. But it is a wake-up call and a warning that we are not heading in the right direction yet.”

In May, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that 2023-2027 will almost certainly be the warmest period on record due to the combined effect of El Niño and global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

See also. Scientists have been stunned by an unprecedented heat wave in the North Atlantic

Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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