What is El Nino and how does it affect the weather?
With La Niña in the rearview mirror, AccuWeather meteorologists explain how its counterpart, El Niño, can play a role in global weather patterns
A major key to shaping weather patterns worldwide is found in the tropical Pacific Ocean, far from any mainland. Known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), this climate phenomenon is the pattern that can create significant differences in average ocean temperatures and often plays a pivotal role in how global weather patterns unfold.
The ENSO pattern occurs in three stages. The neutral state indicates that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are near a long-term historical average, while La Niña results in ocean temperatures that are cooler than the historical average along with stronger surface winds.
El Nino Reshapes the Weather
The third state is El Niño, which occurs when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time. El Niño, Spanish for “little boy,” was named in reference to Jesus Christ due to the timing of the warm ocean waters. The term originated from South America in the 1800s, when warmer waters around the Christmas holiday negatively impacted fish catches.
El Niño is looming. Here’s what that means for weather and the world.
How do we know El Niño may be brewing?
How does El Niño affect the weather?
How long does El Niño last?
What is the difference between El Niño and La Niña?
Why is the pattern called El Niño?
How does climate change affect El Niño?
What does El Niño mean for global warming?
Earth is under an “El Niño watch” as scientists eye signs that the climate pattern is developing.
Its arrival could mean significant impacts worldwide, including a push toward levels of global warming that climate scientists have warned could be devastating.
Since March, a rapid increase in average ocean temperatures has been helping to fuel speculation that El Niño is imminent. The pattern could mark a quick departure from an unusually extended spell of El Niño’s inverse counterpart, La Niña, which scientists say ended in February.
Before it materializes, here is what you need to know about it, and what it could mean for your community and planet.
World should prepare for El Nino, new record temperatures: UN
El Nino 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.
The United Nations warned Wednesday of a growing likelihood the weather phenomenon El Nino will develop in coming months, fuelling higher global temperatures and possibly new heat records.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said it now estimated there was a 60-percent chance that El Nino would develop by the end of July, and an 80-percent chance it would do so by the end of September.
“This will change the weather and climate patterns worldwide,” Wilfran Moufouma Okia, head of WMO’s regional climate prediction services division, told reporters in Geneva.
El Nino, 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 Nina—El Nino’s cooling opposite—which ended earlier this year, ceding way to the current neutral conditions.
And yet, the UN has said the last eight years were the warmest ever recorded, despite La Nina’s cooling effect stretching over nearly half that period.
Without that weather phenomenon, the warming situation could have been even worse.
What is El Niño and What are Causes and Effects of El Niño
El Niño is a natural phenomenon experienced in the equatorial Pacific which causes temporary alterations in the world climate. It is normally characterized by complex and abnormally warm ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean in the area near the equator which results in global weather events and sea-surface temperature changes.
In practical sense, the ocean surface around the equator region warms up by small degrees Celsius along with very heavy thunderstorms. The small rise in temperatures is influenced by change in the normal wind direction. Scientist also prevails that the temperature increases may be intensified by the effects of greenhouse gases and consequent global warming. This small difference in temperature increase has a substantial impact on the world’s climate.
El Niño reportedly takes place every 2 to 7 years and can last from months to a period of up to two years. It is also referred to as the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO). The ocean warming off South American coast is a prime example of an El Niño event. The unusual rainfall and flooding in Peru, Southern California, and Chile are also usually tied to the El Niño climatic conditions.
According to NOAA,
“El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, as opposed to La Niña, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe.“
El Nino In 2023? Economic Impact On India
This update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) may worry you and affect the choice of food on your plate in the coming months. On March 1, 2023, WMO, an UN-based agency responsible for promoting international cooperation in atmospheric science and climatology, predicted that 2023 will be a year of El Nino.
The agency’s long-lead forecast has indicated 55-60% chances of El Nino from June to August. For the government and policymakers in India, it’s not a piece of good news either.
Let’s look at the economic impact of El Nino in the past to see which sectors will suffer the most.
Table of Contents
What is El Nino?
El Nino in India
Economic Impact of El Nino on India
El Nino’s Impact on the Global Economy: An IMF Study
Country-wise, El Nino Impact
What is El Nino?
Is India affected by El Nino?
What are the sectors affected by El Nino?
El Nino Theme Page
Comprehensive list of recent and historical El Niño / La Niña impacts.
Read Reports to the Nation on our Changing Planet: El Niño and Climate Prediction (PDF), and find more impacts information in the FAQs on El Niño and La Niña.
Societal and Economic
Famine & Drought
Prepare, mitigate adverse effects of El Niño, SILG orders all LCEs
This, after Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issued an El Niño alert, forecasting that the phenomenon may emerge in the next three months until the first quarter of 2024.
Included in the mitigation efforts are the urgent enactment of ordinances curbing illegal connections and encouraging prudent water usage; allowing water concessionaires and water utilities to conduct emergency leak repairs; lifting of application of number coding schemes with respect to water tankers used by water concessionaires to immediately address water supply needs of affected customers; implementing and updating of existing contingency plans related to El Niño; stockpiling of relief goods (food and non-food items) for immediate relief assistance, among others.
The local chief executives are also tasked to conduct massive information, education, and communication campaigns in communities on checking and immediate fixing of water leaks, maximizing rainwater harvesting and storage; implementation of water conservation measures; setting the temperature of air-conditioning units between 22 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius.
Threat of El Niño looms, FAO prepares anticipatory actions with Members and partners
Weather reversal pattern points to higher drought risks in southern Africa and Central America and Far East Asia
After a protracted three-year presence La Niña has left the global atmospheric scene, making way for a likely imminent transition to El Niño, a meteorological event that typically distributes weather patterns in the opposite way. That could be relief for some drought-afflicted areas such as the Horn of Africa, but may spell trouble for other parts of Africa, Central America and Far East Asia.
Given the record number of people facing acute food insecurity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is scrutinizing the areas in the globe that are especially vulnerable to El Niño and how anticipatory action could be taken to mitigate its risks.
According to a new report by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning Systems of the Markets and Trade Division, the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment and the Office of Emergencies and Resilience, Southern Africa, Central America and the Caribbean and parts of Asia are of particular concern, as a number of countries in these regions already face high levels of acute food insecurity and key cropping seasons fall under the typical El Niño weather patterns of drier conditions. Northern areas of South America are also at risk to potential dryness, while Australia normally experiences suppressed rainfall.
“Early warnings mean that we have to take early and anticipatory action, and we will support our Members in these efforts, to the full extent resources allow,” said Rein Paulsen, head of FAO’s Office for Emergencies and Resilience.
Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report
The much-anticipated Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report is based on years of work by hundreds of scientists during the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment cycle which began in 2015.
The report provides the main scientific input to COP28 and the Global Stocktake at the end of this year, when countries will review progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.
The report reiterates that humans are responsible for all global heating over the past 200 years leading to a current temperature rise of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, which has led to more frequent and hazardous weather events that have caused increasing destruction to people and the planet. The report reminds us that every increment of warming will come with more extreme weather events.
The report outlines that the 1.5°C limit is still achievable and outlines the critical action required across sectors and by everyone at all levels. The report focuses on the critical need for action that considers climate justice and focuses on climate resilient development. It outlines that by sharing best practices, technology, effective policy measures, and mobilising sufficient finance, any community can decrease or prevent the usage of carbon-intensive consumption methods. The biggest gains in well-being can be achieved by prioritizing climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalized communities.
India GDP to be well above 5.9% FY24 despite El-Nino, says RBI paper
India’s economy is likely to grow “well above” 5.9% in the current financial year started Apr 1 despite the possible impact of El-Nino on growth, according to a Reserve Bank of India staff paper released today.
The RBI has projected GDP growth in 2023-24 (Apr-Mar) at 6.5%.
“Even if El Nino impacts value added in agriculture, real GDP growth in India would be well above 5.9% projected in the IMF’s WEO (World Economic Outlook),” said the paper titled “State of the Economy” in the central bank’s bulletin for April.