El Niño is back, and it looks like it will be getting stronger. While it’s difficult to predict the impact precisely, El Niño – a state of warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean – can alter patterns of drought and rainfall around the world. The May forecast suggests that the northeastern part of South America, Indonesia and part of Australia will have a much drier than usual summer. Parts of the U.S. Plains and the central portion of South America are likely to see heavier than usual rainfall.
The El Niño phenomenon is part of a natural cycle of climate (and ocean) variability in the equatorial Pacific, known as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The amount of energy absorbed and distributed by this area of ocean and atmosphere is so great that sustained sea surface temperatures even just a degree above average have cascading effects throughout the world.
Forecasting El Niño’s likely effects can help people trying to manage resources in a shifting climate. Tony Barnston of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society offers a briefing on the latest forecast in the video at the page linked below.
Learn more about the science behind El Niño at the IRI website’s page on El Nino basics.