State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Forecast Sees a Stronger El Niño

elnino forecast iri may 2015El 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.

elnino precip map may 2015The 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.

elnino barnston video snip


Learn more about the science behind El Niño at the IRI website’s page on El Nino basics.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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