Is El Niño on the way?
El Niño is the name given to a climatic event when temperature increases in the Pacific Ocean influence tropical rainfall and other weather patterns around the world. Episodes of cooler temperatures in the Pacific are referred to as La Niña. Together, the cycle is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation or ENSO.
Warmer and cooler ocean temperatures alternate in an irregular pattern, but satellite observation of the condition of the ocean can help predict El Niño events. Recent observations of the sea level by the Jason-2 satellite suggest that the ocean may be warming – since sea level rises when the water is warmer. Here, Science at NASA looks at the evidence for a developing El Niño:
The effects of El Niño vary across the globe. It could potentially relieve the drought currently affecting some areas of North America, but is associated with causing drought in Australia. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration highlights these areas as experiencing unusual conditions during El Niño:
Rupa Kumar Kolli, of the World Meteorological Organization explains the effects of El Niño, and how it was first recognized:
The possible development of El Niño has already hit the headlines around the world, particularly involving concerns about the severity of El Niño should it develop. The WMO has more information on how El Niño affects climate prediction, and also provides updates on the development of El Niño.