The powerful 2015-2016 El Niño has passed its peak but remains strong and will continue to influence the global climate, according to the latest update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It is expected to weaken in the coming months and fade away during the second quarter of 2016. El Niño events have affected a number of coffee and cocoa growing countries in the last few months.
Eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures were more than 2 degrees Celsius above average in late 2015, providing evidence that the 2015-16 El Niño is one of the strongest on record, comparable with the 1997-98 and 1982-83 events. “It is too early to establish conclusively whether it was the strongest,” said the organization.
As typically happens, the El Niño reached its peak ocean surface temperature during November and December, but has since declined by about half a degree. “We have just witnessed one of the most powerful ever El Niño events which caused extreme weather in countries on all continents and helped fuel record global heat in 2015,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas. “In meteorological terms, this El Niño is now in decline. But we cannot lower our guard as it is still quite strong and in humanitarian and economic terms, its impact will continue for many months to come,” said Mr Taalas. “Parts of South America and East Africa are still recovering from torrential rains and flooding. The economic and human toll from drought – which by its nature is a slowly developing disaster – is becoming increasingly apparent in southern and the Horn of Africa, central America and a number of other regions,” he said.
The WMO Update said that models indicate a return to an ENSO neutral state during the second quarter of 2016. It is too early to predict whether there will be a swing to La Niña (the opposite of El Niño) after that.