El Niño, a phase marked by warm waters in the eastern Pacific, will likely return this year, driving up global temperatures, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
The Pacific has been in the cooler La Niña phase for the last three years, but that is coming to a close. There is a 60-percent chance that the Pacific will shift to the El Niño phase between May and July, rising to a 70- to 80-percent chance between July and September.
Record hot years typically coincide with El Niño, which gives a boost to the overall warming trend. “The development of an El Niño will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The hottest year on record, 2016, came amid a particularly strong El Niño, and experts say that 2024 will likely see temperatures soar once again. Expect drier conditions in Australia, Indonesia, and southern Asia, but greater rainfall in South America, the U.S., and the Horn of Africa.
Taalas cautioned that while El Niño “might bring respite from the drought in the Horn of Africa,” it could also “trigger more extreme weather and climate events.”