The United Nations warned on Wednesday that an El Niño weather phenomenon is likely to form this year and could push temperatures to new record highs.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) now estimates that there is a 60% chance of an El Nino developing by the end of July and an 80% chance by the end of September.
“This will change weather and climate conditions around the world,” WMO Regional Climate Prediction Services Division Chief Wilfran Mufuma Okiya explained at a press conference in Geneva.
El Niño is a natural weather phenomenon that is generally associated with higher temperatures, increased dryness in some parts of the world, and heavy rains in others.
It last happened in 2018-2019 and gave way to a particularly long La Nina episode, which causes the opposite effects and especially the lower temperatures.
Despite this moderating effect, the past eight years have been the warmest on record.
Without La Nina, the warming would have been even worse.
This “acted as a temporary brake on the rise in global temperatures,” Petteri Taalas, head of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a statement. “The development of El Niño will likely lead to a new peak in global warming and increase the chances of breaking temperature records,” he warned.
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At this point, the intensity or duration of a looming El Nino cannot be predicted. The last one was weak, but the one that preceded it, between 2014 and 2016, was strong and had serious consequences. The World Meteorological Organization noted that 2016 was “the warmest year on record due to the ‘double effect’ of a very strong El Niño and warming caused by greenhouse gases associated with human activity.”
The effects of the El Niño phenomenon on temperatures generally appear in the year following the onset of the meteorological phenomenon, and its impact is likely to be felt more in 2024, as confirmed by the Organization (WMO).
“We expect a sharp rise in global temperatures over the next two years,” Okiya said.
The head of the World Meteorological Organization warned that “the world should prepare for the development of the El Niño phenomenon.”
This, he said, “could mitigate drought in the Horn of Africa and other related impacts in the La Niña region, but it could also lead to more weather and climate extremes.” He stressed the need to establish early warning systems – one of the priorities of WMO – to protect the most vulnerable populations.
The World Meteorological Organization said that no two Niños are the same and their effects depend in part on the time of year, adding that they and the National Meteorological Services will closely monitor developments of the next announced episode.
This phenomenon occurs on average every two to seven years and usually lasts nine to 12 months.
It is generally associated with higher ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific.
El Niño generally causes increased rainfall in parts of southern South America, the southern United States, the Horn of Africa, and Central Asia, while El Niño causes severe droughts in Australia, Indonesia, and parts of southern Asia.
During the boreal summer — the season that is hot in the Northern Hemisphere and cold in the Southern Hemisphere — the warming of surface waters caused by El Niño can also fuel hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, while preventing hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin, the organization explained. World Meteorology.