Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

El Nino-like event likely to disrupt climate in 2014, UN warns

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration image shows the warming waters of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean in July, 2010. El Nino, a flow of unusually warm surface waters from the Pacific Ocean toward and along the western coast of South America, changes rain and temperature patterns around the world and usually raises global temperatures.

NOAA/REUTERS

There's a strong chance an El Nino weather event will reappear before the end of the year and shake up climate patterns worldwide, the UN weather agency said Thursday.

The El Nino, a flow of unusually warm surface waters from the Pacific Ocean toward and along the western coast of South America, changes rain and temperature patterns around the world and usually raises global temperatures.

An update Thursday from the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization puts the odds of El Nino at 60 per cent between June and August, reaching 75 to 80 per cent between October and December. It said the expected warming would come on top of the effects of man-made global warming.

Story continues below advertisement

"El Nino leads to extreme events and has a pronounced warming effect," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. "It is too early to assess the precise impact on global temperatures in 2014, but we expect the long-term warming trend to continue as a result of rising greenhouse gas concentrations."

The outlook is for El Nino to reach peak strength during the last quarter of the year and into the first few months of 2015 before dissipating.

Tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures have already warmed to weak El Nino levels, but the weather event hasn't fully established itself yet based on readings of other conditions such as sea level pressure, cloudiness and trade winds, the report said.

Rupa Kumar Kolli, chief of a WMO division that deals with climate prediction and adaptation, said the El Nino would likely have moderate strength, but there remains a wide range of possibilities.

"We are expecting about the same levels" as the last El Nino from 2009 to 2010, which was the hottest year on record, he said.

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.