El Niño Global Climate Impact- Insights & Preparedness

The End of La Niña - A taste of the world beyond 1.5°C" - Image depicting the conclusion of La Niña and the potential consequences of surpassing the 1.5°C global temperature threshold
El Niño Global Climate Impact- Insights & Preparedness

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently declared that the El Niño phenomenon of 2023-24 has reached its peak, ranking among the top five most potent occurrences on record. Despite a weakening trend, its influence on the global climate is expected to persist in the coming months. Additionally, the UN agency forecasts above-normal temperatures across most land areas from March to May.

Unprecedented Temperature Records and Extreme Weather Events

The prevailing El Niño conditions have triggered unprecedented temperature records and extreme weather events globally, making 2023 the warmest year on record. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the global mean temperature surpassed the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold for the first time in January, underscoring the urgency of addressing long-term climate trends outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Outlook on El Niño and Potential La Niña Development

The WMO's latest update suggests a 60% chance of El Niño persisting from March to May, with an 80% likelihood of neutral conditions prevailing from April to June. While the possibility of La Niña developing later in the year remains uncertain, experts monitoring the situation in India indicate that if La Niña conditions emerge by June-August, it could lead to improved monsoon rains compared to 2023.

Characteristics of El Niño and Regional Impacts

El Niño, characterized by periodic warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, recurs every two to seven years, typically lasting nine to 12 months. Its effects include increased rainfall in the Horn of Africa and southern United States, along with dry and warm conditions in Southeast Asia, Australia, and southern Africa.

Greenhouse Gases and Temperature Rise

WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo underscores that while El Niño has contributed to record temperatures, the primary driver of global temperature rise is the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Concerns are raised over persistently high sea-surface temperatures in various regions for the past 10 months, indicating broader climate trends beyond El Niño's immediate influence.

Importance of Early Warnings and Preparedness

The WMO stresses the significance of early warnings, particularly during El Niño and La Niña events, which significantly impact tropical regions. Accurate seasonal forecasts play a vital role in decision-making, enhancing preparedness, and supporting anticipatory action. Secretary-General Saulo highlights the lifesaving potential of timely forecasts, aiding countries in mitigating damage in critical sectors such as agriculture, water resources, and public health.

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