The UN warned on Wednesday that the El Nino weather phenomenon is likely to develop this year and push temperatures to new record highs.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) now estimates a 60% chance of El Niño forming by the end of July and an 80% chance by the end of September.
“This will change weather and climate conditions around the world,” Wilfran Moufouma Okia, head of WMO’s Regional Climate Prediction Services, explained at a press conference in Geneva.
El Niño is a natural climate phenomenon that is usually associated with increased temperatures, increased drought in some parts of the world, and heavy rainfall in some places.
This last happened in 2018-2019 and led to a particularly long episode of La Niña, which causes the opposite effects and especially temperature drops.
Despite this moderating effect, the last eight years were the hottest on record.
Without La Nina, the warming situation would have been even worse.
It “acted as a temporary buffer to global warming,” WMO chief Petteri Talas said in a statement. “The development of El Niño could lead to a new peak in global warming and increase the chances of breaking temperature records,” he warned.
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At this stage, the intensity or duration of El Niño cannot be predicted. The latter was considered weak, but between 2014 and 2016 the former was powerful and had disastrous consequences. The WMO pointed out that 2016 was the warmest year on record due to the “double effect” of a very strong El Niño and warming from greenhouse gases associated with human activities.
The effects of El Niño on temperature are generally felt the year after the weather event appears, with the WMO underlining that its impact will be felt most in 2024.
“We expect a sharp rise in global temperatures over the next two years,” Ogiya said.
“The world must prepare for the development of El Nino,” warned the WMO chief.
This could provide relief from “Horn of Africa drought and other La Niña-related impacts, but trigger more extreme weather and climate events,” he said. He underlined the need to set up early warning systems – one of WMO’s priorities – to protect the most vulnerable populations.
No two El Niños are alike and their effects depend on the time of year, the WMO said, adding that it and the National Weather Service will closely monitor developments in the next reported episode.
This event occurs on average every two to seven years and usually lasts nine to 12 months.
This is generally associated with warming sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
El Niño typically causes heavy rainfall in southern South America, South America, the Horn of Africa, and parts of Central Asia, while El Niño can cause severe drought in parts of Australia, Indonesia, and South Asia.
During the tropical summer—the warmest season in the Northern Hemisphere and the coldest in the Southern Hemisphere—the warming of surface waters caused by El Niño fuels hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, preventing hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin. , WMO explained.
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