A new experimental forecast released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that this winter’s El Niño climate pattern could be one of the most intense ever observed. El Niño is expected to develop alongside rising global temperatures, which could increase the likelihood of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and deadly floods. However, scientists are unsure of the specific impacts this El Niño might have, as research has not determined a clear link between human-caused warming and El Niño. Rising temperatures may increase the capacity of El Niño to trigger heavy rainfall in certain areas, but the exact weather impacts are difficult to predict in advance.
Climate models have been predicting for months that this El Niño could bring floods, heatwaves, and droughts. The pattern is marked by a surge of warmth in surface waters along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. As ocean and surface temperatures continue to rise, the intensity of El Niño’s impact has solidified in official predictions. The National Center for Atmospheric Research forecasts that the coming winter could bring a super El Niño, rivaling the historic El Niño of 1997-1998, which caused extreme rainfall and droughts around the world. However, while it is likely Pacific waters will remain warm, scientists are unsure of the specific weather impacts this El Niño will bring. El Niño can result in dry conditions in some areas and wet conditions in others, but variations between El Niño events make it difficult to predict the exact impacts.
Research is ongoing to better understand the connections between El Niño and global warming, as well as El Niño and its impacts. Scientists are exploring how El Niño might influence extreme precipitation around the world and studying the connection between planetary temperatures and precipitation intensity. The forecast for this current El Niño is part of a broader effort to improve predictions of weather and climate phenomena over the next one to two years. Additionally, scientists are trying to determine why it is easier to predict the presence of an El Niño pattern than its specific impacts. While El Niño is known for bringing moisture to California and the Southwest, current forecasts are showing a muted response to El Niño in the United States.