El Nino: What does this wild weather phenomenon mean for the UK?

 

Environment Editor

A A A

After steadily mounting speculation in recent weeks, the Met Office has confirmed that the world is almost certainly going to be struck by an El Nino event this year for the first time since 2009/10  – and probably by the end of the summer. The Independent looks at what this means for people around the world.

What is an El Nino phenomenon?

An El Nino event occurs when the prevailing trade winds that circulate over surface waters in the tropical pacific start to weaken. This allows the warm waters of the western pacific to wash back eastward, dragging precipitation with it, resulting in droughts in some countries and heavy rains in others.

How often do they occur?

Every two to seven years.

Are we definitely getting one this year?

Not definitely, but very likely indeed. The Met Office has said it's “probable”, while the United Nations forecasts an 80 per cent chance that we’ll get one by October and a 60 per cent likelihood that it could before August.

 

How worried should we be?

It depends where you live, but globally speaking the Met Office said an El Nino has the potential to induce “major climatic impacts”.

Where will be hardest hit?

India, Indonesia and Australia are likely to become much drier, increasing the chances of wildfires, lower crop production and rising food prices.

Meanwhile, the phenomenon precipitates heavier rainfall in the South American and eastern Pacific nations, raising the prospect of floods and landslides.

Overall, India is likely to suffer the most because El Nino increases the risk of a poor monsoon season by two to three times – potentially depriving the country of rains that are crucial to its crops and livelihoods.

Will the UK be affected?

Quite possibly, although as usual with the weather, it’s difficult to say for sure. The Met Office said El Nino increases the prospect of snow in the UK and contributed to the massive flurries seen last time the phenomenon visited in 2009/10. However, as only one of the factors influencing the weather, snow cannot be assured.

Rice fields in Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia. El Nino looms on the horizon which could lead into drought and lack of rainfall for the region Rice fields in Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia. El Nino looms on the horizon which could lead into drought and lack of rainfall for the region  

When was the worst El Nino?

The El Nino of 1997-8 caused deadly mudslides in South America, a crippling drought in South East Asia and extreme weather almost everywhere else. By contrast, the Met Office said the one it expects this year will be “weak to moderate” – similar to the last one in 2009/10.

Does El Nino always spell bad news?

Not always, no. For example, this time round it’s expected to bring much needed rain to the American west, which has been subjected to a severe drought in recent months.

Why El Nino?

The name is thought to have been coined in the 19th Century after Peruvian fishermen observed it around Christmas. The word is Spanish for boy, in reference to the infant Jesus Christ.

Any relation of La Nina?

Yes, they’re diametrically opposed brother and sister. La Nina, the word for girl, was devised later to label the reverse phenomenon, which is characterised by unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific – the last of which ended in April 2012.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Furyon London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam