The chances of an El Niño developing this year are now at almost 4 out of 5. The chart above from NASA makes clear El Niños are generally the hottest years on record — since the regional warming adds to the underlying man-made global trend.
The chart below is the consensus forecast for the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society:
If this El Niño does start fairly quickly and become quite strong, as many currently expect, then 2014 could well become the hottest year on record, and 2015 would likely break all previous global records.
Rather than explaining in charts exactly what an El Niño is and why it matters, as I’ve done previously, this time I can share a terrific new video from climate auteur Peter Sinclair:
Australian climate expert Dr. Wenju Cai says the ocean data suggest this will become one of the strongest El Niños in decades. If so, then in addition to record temperatures, we can expect off-the-charts extreme weather. As the U.K. Royal Society and Met Office explained a few years ago, “We expect some of the most significant impacts of climate change to occur when natural variability is exacerbated by long-term global warming.”
Since this El Niño could be the defining climate event for the next few years, Climate Progress will be reporting on it regularly.