WMO: El Niño peaks as one of the five strongest ever

WMO: El Niño peaks as one of the five strongest ever
7 March 2024

By the Climate Centre

(This story is adapted from Tuesday’s press release by the World Meteorological Organization. The Copernicus Climate Change Service today said last month was the warmest February ever recorded.)

The current El Niño peaked between November and January at about 2.0°C above the 1991 to 2020 baseline in the relevant Pacific region, the World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday, making it one of the five strongest ever recorded.

It’s now slowly weakening but will continue to affect the global climate over the next few months, intensifying heat from climate change, and above-normal temperatures are predicted over almost all land areas between until May, the WMO added.

El Niño typically has the greatest impact on the global climate in the second year of its life; in this instance, 2024.

There is an “80 per cent chance of neutral conditions in April to June [and] a chance of La Niña developing later in the year, but the odds are currently uncertain,” the WMO release says.

‘Heat-trapping greenhouse gases
are unequivocally the main culprit’

WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo said Tuesday: “Every month since June 2023 has set a new monthly temperature record, and 2023 was by far the warmest year on record.

“El Niño has contributed to these record temperatures, but heat-trapping greenhouse gases are unequivocally the main culprit.”

She continued: “The January 2024 sea-surface temperature was by far the highest on record for January. This is worrying and cannot be explained by El Niño alone.”

Seasonal forecasts are typically more accurate during El Niño and La Niña events, particularly in the tropics, and this emphasizes the pivotal role of early warnings, preparedness and anticipatory action, WMO add.

El Niño is associated with increased rainfall and floods in the Horn of Africa and the southern US, and unusually dry and warm conditions in South-East Asia, Australia and Southern Africa.

Ugandan Red Cross actions last November as part of its early action protocol for floods likely to have been exacerbated by El Niño included cleaning water sources and dredging channels (photo) and mapping evacuation routes. Red Cross Red Crescent societies across Africa have been facing opposite impacts from the current ENSO phase. (Library photo: Uganda Red Cross via social media)