El Niño and its impact on global weather

Forecast centres around the world have now declared that an El Niño, the most powerful fluctuation in our climate system, has begun in the tropical Pacific.

For more than a year, scientists have been talking of an increased risk of the start of El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific.

Scientists have been watching closely because it can change the odds of floods, droughts, heat waves and cold seasons for different regions around the world and can even raise global temperatures.

Early signs of an El Niño last year failed to fully develop and atmospheric conditions remained close to neutral into the start of 2015.

Now, however, observations from the tropical Pacific show that we have moved to weak El Niño  conditions for the first time in five years.

While it is still too early to determine with confidence how strong this El Niño  might be forecast models from centres around the world – including the Met Office – suggest this El Nino could strengthen from September onwards.

What are the impacts likely to be?

El Niño is a warming of the Pacific Ocean as part of a complex cycle linking atmosphere and ocean.  It sees a huge release of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere, which can disrupt weather patterns around the world.

It  can be linked with poor monsoons in Southeast Asia, droughts in southern Australia, the Philippines and Ecuador, blizzards in the United States, heatwaves in Brazil and extreme flooding in Mexico.

The consequences of El Nino are much less clear for Europe and the UK.

Each El Nino event is unique, however, so it’s not possible to say exactly what the consequences will be for any given year.

What will happen next?

Predicting exactly how an El Niño might develop remains difficult, but as we move a few months ahead it’s likely forecast models will provide a higher level of certainty about what will happen.

The current outlook suggests that at least a moderate El Nino is likely and there is a risk of a substantial event.

What does this mean for the UK?

There has been some media speculation about how the El Niño conditions could impact our weather over the coming months.

However, even a strong El Niño only slightly changes the risk of extreme UK spring and summer weather and we wouldn’t expect it to be the dominant driver of our weather over the next few months.

Looking further ahead, there are a number of factors that affect winter conditions in Britain. The  increase in risk of a colder winter this year from the developing El Niño is currently considered small.

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7 Responses to El Niño and its impact on global weather

  1. xmetman says:

    I did a quick couple of graphs of CET anomalies plotted again the ENSO 3.4 SST anomaly to see if I could find any kind of correlation between them since 1982 and found very little. You are just as likely to get a cold or mild winter in an El Niño event. You can find my findings here:


  2. Referring to the author’s assertion that El Niño isn’t expected to be the dominant driver of our weather our the next few months.
    Can you elaborate on what you think are the key main drivers?
    Thanks, Chris

  3. Chris Marshall says:

    More gripping weather stuff

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. StrongMove says:

    It’s interesting that for the past few years the “El Nino” is less publicized and you can’t hear about it on the news or read about it as much as you could in the past. It’s like it’s not existing any more. Actually this is the first article i stumble upon for like 2-3 years. I wonder what could be the reason for that…
    Jenny J.

  5. plnvulcan says:

    Simple answer. ………nobody has a clue, they cant get it right for today let a lone months ahead. Its a goverment move to keep us all depressed.

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