Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

There is estimated 60% chance event will develop by end of July, and 80% chance of it by end of September

The chance of an El Niño weather phenomenon developing in the coming months has risen, the United Nations has said, warning that it could fuel higher global temperatures and possibly new heat records.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday that it now estimated there was a 60% chance that El Niño would develop by the end of July, and an 80% chance it would do so by the end of September.

“This will change the weather and climate patterns worldwide,” Wilfran Moufouma Okia, the head of the WMO’s regional climate prediction services division, told reporters in Geneva.

El Niño, which is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, as well as drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere, last occurred in 2018-19.

Since 2020 though, the world has been hit with an exceptionally long La Niña – El Niño’s cooling opposite – which ended earlier this year, giving way to the current neutral conditions.

And yet, the UN has said the last eight years were the warmest ever recorded, despite La Niña’s cooling effect stretching over nearly half that period. Without that weather phenomenon, the warming situation could have been even worse.

La Niña “acted as a temporary brake on global temperature increase”, the WMO chief, Petteri Taalas, said in a statement. Now, he said, “the world should prepare for the development of El Niño.”

The expected arrival of the warming climate pattern, he said, “will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records”.

At this stage, there is no indication of the strength or duration of the looming El Niño. The last one was considered very weak, but the one before that, between 2014 and 2016, was considered among the strongest ever, with dire consequences.

The WMO pointed out that 2016 was “the warmest year on record because of the “double whammy” of a very powerful El Niño event and human-induced warming from greenhouse gases”.

Since the El Niño effect on global temperatures usually plays out the year after it emerges, the impact would probably be most apparent in 2024, it said.