New temperature records, food security threats likely as El Niño looms

The development of an El Niño climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean this year is more and more likely, with dangerously high temperatures and extreme weather events expected, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.

El Niño and La Niña are natural phenomena which WMO describes as “major drivers of the Earth’s climate system”. After a three-year La Niña spell, which is associated with ocean cooling, the world faces an 80 per cent chance of an El Niño event developing between July and September.

Tell-tale signs are a warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. With a slightly lesser likelihood, it may develop even earlier.

WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas highlighted that, according to the agency’s State of the Global Climate reports, the eight years from 2015 to 2022 were the warmest on record. This was even though for three of those years, “we had a cooling La Niña […] and this acted as a temporary brake on global temperature increase”.

The WMO chief also warned that the development of El Niño will “most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records”.