Climate Change

El Nino is here, could cause more damage depending on its strength this winter: NOAA

El Nino could cause more warming. The hottest year on record was 2016, during a particularly strong El Nino

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Thursday 08 June 2023
A map of the eastern Pacific which warms during El Nino. Photo: iStock_

El Nino, the warm phase of a recurring climate pattern associated with the warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, has arrived, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

El Nino occurs every two-seven years. Its impacts can be felt far and wide. The climate pattern is known to cause severe droughts over Australia, Indonesia, and parts of southern Asia and bring rainfall in parts of southern South America, the southern United States, the Horn of Africa and central Asia.

“El Nino conditions are present and are expected to gradually strengthen into the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2023-24,” the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center wrote on Twitter.

NOAA predicts that there is an 84 per cent chance of greater than a moderate strength El Nino and a 56 per cent chance of a strong El Nino by winter.

In a statement, Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Center said El Nino can cause a range of impacts such as increasing the risk of heavy rainfall and droughts in certain locations around the world, depending on its strength.

“Climate change can exacerbate or mitigate certain impacts related to El Nino. For example, El Nino could lead to new records for temperatures, particularly in areas that already experience above-average temperatures during El Nino,” she added.

El Nino was expected to strike this year. In May 2023, the World Meteorological Organization predicted that there was a 60 per cent chance of an El Nino during May-July 2023. The likelihood, it added, could further rise to about 70 per cent in June-August and 80 per cent between July and September.

Also, May 2023 was statistically tied as the second warmest May on record globally. “An El Nino-like signature continues to emerge in the equatorial Pacific,” Zack Labe, a postdoctoral scientist at Princeton University, wrote on Twitter.

El Nino could cause more warming. The hottest year on record was 2016, during a particularly strong El Nino. 

“El Nino adds some extra heat to the atmosphere, it’s possible that Earth’s rising temperature will temporarily exceed the 1.5°C threshold of the Paris agreement sometime after the peak of El Nino in 2024, though it is too early to know how strong this next event will be,” Paloma Trascasa-Castro, PhD Candidate in University of Leeds, wrote in The Conversation.

La Nina, a climate pattern associated with the cooling of surface-ocean water along the tropical west coast of South America, ended its three-year-run in 2023.

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