The return of El Niño: US scientists say there is 80% chance of extreme disruption to world's weather later this year

Some regions can expect potentially beneficial effects, others much less so

If you think the weather has been misbehaving of late, you might not have seen anything yet. Government scientists in the United States now say there is a four out of five chance of a new El Niño taking hold this autumn or in early winter with all the usual disruptions to the world’s climate rhythms.

“We are now even more bullish that an El Niño is impending,” Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the federal Climate Prediction Centre in Maryland confirmed, basing her prediction on the latest data and computer models tracking ocean temperatures in the Pacific.

Writing on the realclimate.org website, Ms L’Heureux says that prospects for an El Niño reach “a peak probability of 80 per cent during the late fall/early winter of this year”. That still leaves a two-in-ten possibility that it won’t happen, of course. And if it does emerge, the likely strength of it can’t yet be gauged.

“At this point, the team remains non-committal on the possible strength of El Niño preferring to watch the system for at least another month or more before trying to infer the intensity,” Ms L’Heureux wrote. “But, could we get a super strong event? The range of possibilities implied by some models allude to such an outcome, but at this point the uncertainty is just too high.”

The last major El Niño, which comes with the gathering of unusually warm surface waters in the tropical Pacific that in turn alters the course of the upper atmosphere jet stream, was in 1997. On that occasion, the surface of central and eastern sections of the ocean jumped by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Usually an El Niño is associated with higher global temperatures, though for northern Europe, including Britain, they can spell unusually cold and dry winters. Other regions could expect more far-reaching effects, some potentially beneficial others much less so.

Futures markets are already bracing for possible global food shortages amidst fears that a strong El Niño could see crops drowned by heavy rains in the American Midwest and Brazil and shrivelled by excessive heat and lack of water in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.

But an El Niño generally heralds elevated rain- and snow-fall amounts for the western half the US. That would be welcome news since California and other western states are currently suffering a serious multi-year drought. Equally well received would be the prospect of diminished hurricane activity in the Atlantic. More hurricanes would be likely in the Pacific, however.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links