Climate Change

WMO: Hottest year ever in next three, 1.5 degrees Celsius to be breached

This could mean unprecedented heatwaves and other climate impacts all around the world  

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Friday 03 March 2023
Representative Photo from iStock

There is a 93 per cent chance that one of the years until 2026 would be the warmest year ever recorded on account of an impending El Niño, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) latest El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) update. The record for the warmest year is currently held by 2016 which was also an El Niño year.

The WMO also reiterated the United Kingdom’s Met Agency’s prediction that there is a 50 per cent chance that Earth might temporarily reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average in the next few years.

This could mean unprecedented heatwaves and other climate impacts all around the world.

During an El Niño event, which is the warm phase of the ENSO phenomenon, the sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean become warmer than normal.

This weakens the trade winds above the sea surface creating an air pressure difference which is then carried around the world and impacts different regions differently.

In general there is a spike in temperatures worldwide which, combined by global warming, had made 2016 the hottest year ever recorded. In India it is mostly responsible for heatwaves, poor monsoons and droughts.

WMO says that once the ongoing La Niña event, which is the cooling phase of ENSO and generally has the opposite impacts of El Niño, ends in March, there are high chances (90 per cent) of neutral conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean in the period of March to May.

“The first triple-dip La Niña of the 21st century is finally coming to an end. La Niña’s cooling effect put a temporary brake on rising global temperatures, even though the past eight year period was the warmest on record,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.

During neutral conditions the sea surface temperature levels go back to their normal levels and there is no extra influence on global or regional climates.

The probability of neutral conditions goes down in the subsequent three month periods of April to June and May to July. WMO says that there is a 55 per cent chance of an El Niño event beginning in the three month period of June to August but it also cautions about the uncertainty of this prediction because of something called the Spring Predictability Barrier.

During the spring season in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere the ENSO models cannot accurately predict El Niño or La Niña for the coming summer season as the phenomena are in the middle of a transition period during spring season and there is weaker interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Therefore it becomes challenging for climate models to pick up the right signals for making accurate predictions. “If we do now enter an El Niño phase, this is likely to fuel another spike in global temperatures”, said Taalas.

Experts have already warned about the warm and dry like conditions that have prevailed in many regions of India in the fag end of the winter season to continue into spring and summer season as well.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its seasonal prediction has said there will be above normal temperatures in central, eastern, northeastern and some parts of northwestern India during March to May.

It has also predicted heatwaves during the period in large parts of the country from Punjab in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.