The high cost of an El Niño in 2023 (2023)

Scientists are predicting that 2023 may see the start of a strong El Niño climate pattern. What effect might that have on our lives?


Over the coming months, a vast body of warm water will slosh slowly across the tropical Pacific Ocean in the direction of South America. As it does so, it will trigger the start of a climate phenomenon that will bring dramatic shifts in weather patterns around the world.

Climate scientists are now warning there is now a 90% chance of an El Niño weather pattern taking hold through the end of this year and the first months of 2024. And they are warning it could be a strong one.

If that turns out to be the case, then the impacts could be significant. Scientists have already warned that with rising emissions and a strong El Niño there is a 66% chance the world will break through a key 1.5C global warming limit at least one year between now and 2027. But it could also bring damaging extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and flooding to communities in the US and elsewhere this winter.

(Video) Weather | El Niño forecasted to boost global temperatures even higher

"We're projecting an above 90% probability that there will be El Niño conditions through the winter," says David DeWitt, director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center. "There's an 80% probability that we're going to be in El Niño in July."

The effects of this could also reverberate for some time to come – a recent study by researchers at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, estimates that an El Niño starting in 2023 could cost the global economy as much as $3.4tn (£2.7tn) over the following five years. And they say that following two previous very strong El Niño events in 1982-83 and 1997-98, the US gross domestic product was 3% lower half a decade later than it otherwise would have been. If an event of a similar magnitude was to happen today, it could cost the US economy $699bn (£565bn), they calculated.

El Nino: How does it affect global weather?

It is worth noting that coastal tropical countries such as Peru and Indonesia, however, suffered a 10% drop in GDP following the same El Niño events, the researchers say. They project that global economic losses will amount to $84 trillion (£68 trillion) this century as climate change increases the frequency and strength of El Niño events.

(Video) PAGASA announces higher possibility of ‘strong’ El Niño occurrence in June

"El Niño is not simply a shock from which an economy immediately recovers. Our study shows that economic productivity in the wake of El Niño is depressed for a much longer time than simply the year after the event," says Justin Mankin, co-author of the study and assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College.

"When we talk about an El Niño here in the United States, it means that the types of impacts that we'll see, floods and landslides, aren't typically insured against by most households and businesses," says Mankin. In California, for example, 98% of homeowners don't have flood insurance.

Other economic impacts in the US could include infrastructure damage from flooding, which would lead to supply chain disruption, and poor harvests caused by floods or drought, says Mankin.

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But should people in the US be bracing themselves for a particularly miserable winter this year if there is an arrival of El Niño? Not necessarily. While El Niño can bring intense periods of extreme weather to North America, it doesn't always do so.

During El Niño, winds that usually push warmer water in the Pacific Ocean towards its west side weaken, allowing the warmer water to drift back towards the east and spread out over a larger area of the ocean. This leads to more moisture-rich air above the warmer ocean that alters the circulation of air in the atmosphere around the world. In North America, this typically causes Canada and the northern US to have a warmer, drier winter than normal while the southern states and Gulf coast tend to get wetter conditions, says DeWitt.

What are El Niño and La Niña?

El Niño and La Niña are naturally occurring phenomena that disrupt weather patterns worldwide. During El Niño the ocean surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean are higher than normal. During La Niña, its cooler counterpart, ocean temperatures are lower than normal

"El Niño tends to enhance the probability of above normal precipitation for the southern third of the US," says DeWitt. El Niño also typically reduces the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, but can lead tomore hurricanes to the Pacific coast of the US. But all these effects largely depend on the strength of the El Niño that is driving them.

Southern states in the US are the most likely to experience severe impacts, including heavy rainfall and potential flash flooding, DeWitt warns. This would come after several years ofdrought following three consecutive La Niña seasons.

"Frequently what happens [during El Niño] is that when the rain comes, it comes very fast. That can causemudslides in Californiaand in other places where there have been wildfires, which can be quite devastating," says DeWitt. This is because scorched earth is able to retain less water, which can lead to dangerous runoff. The strongEl Niño events of 1997-98and 2015-16, for example, brought flooding andmudslides to California. The 1997-98 event was also associated with other unusual extreme events elsewhere in the country, such as severe ice storms in New England and deadly tornadoes in Florida.

(Video) How El Niño and La Niña cause extreme weather
The high cost of an El Niño in 2023 (1)

An El Niño event in 1998 led to severe flooding in California (Credit: John Mabanglo / Getty Images)

But the changes in weather patterns brought by El Niño also brings other problems. Infectious diseases can become more prevalent in areas where conditions favour the insects and other pests that spread them. One study of the 2015-2016 El Niño event found that disease outbreaks became between 2.5%-28% more intense. There were increases in cases of West Nile virus, spread by mosquitoes, in California, while New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Texas also saw increase outbreaks of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which is mainly spread by rodents. There were even increases in the number of human cases of plague – if still only a handful of cases – in the western and southwestern states of the US.

During El Niño a lot of heat and moisture is transported from the tropics towards the poles. "When you increase the moisture at higher latitudes, it traps more thermal infrared radiation which leads to warming. This is what we call the greenhouse effect," says DeWitt.

Even a temporary breach of the 1.5C threshold due to rising emissions and this year's El Niño, as predicted by the World Meteorological Organization, could lead to widespread human suffering worldwide. According to a recent study by the University of Exeter in the UK, limiting long-term global warming to 1.5C could save billions of people from exposure to dangerous heat (average temperature of 29C or higher).

Current policies are projected to lead to 2.7C of warming globally by the end of the century, which could leave two billion people exposed to dangerous levels of heat worldwide, the authors say. Limiting warming to 1.5C would mean five times fewer people live in dangerous heat and would help prevent climate-related migration and detrimental health outcomes, including pregnancy loss and impaired brain function, says Tim Lenton, co-author of the study and director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter.

There are concerns that as carbon emissions continue to rise, future El Niño events might tip global temperatures above the 1.5C threshold more and more often.

"Every 0.1C really matters," says Lenton. "Every 0.1C of warming we can avoid, by our calculation, is saving 140 million people from exposure to unprecedented heat and the harms that could come with it."

"It's saving hundreds of millions of people from harm and that should be a huge incentive to work harder to get to zero emissions."


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(Video) El Nino costs the world over $3 trillion | World Business News
(Video) What is an El Niño? And how will it affect Australia?


What is the ENSO prediction for 2023? ›

Published: May 19, 2023

CPC issued an El Niño watch in April 2023, signaling the start of the warm phase of the ENSO, which remains effective in May 2023. According to the IRI ENSO prediction plume, most of the models forecast an El Niño that persists throughout the entire forecast period.

Is El Niño good or bad? ›

Generally speaking El Niño brings: cooler and wetter weather to the southern United States. warmer weather to western Canada and southern Alaska. drier weather to the Pacific Northwest.

Does El Niño mean hotter summer? ›

In Europe, El Niño usually means drier and colder winters in the north and wetter winters in the south. In the US, it generates dryer and warmer weather in northern states and intense rainfall and flooding on the US Gulf Coast and Southeast.

What is the cause of the El Niño? ›

El Niño occurs when warm water builds up along the equator in the eastern Pacific. The warm ocean surface warms the atmosphere, which allows moisture-rich air to rise and develop into rainstorms.

Is El Niño expected in 2023? ›

David DeWitt, director of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, forecasts an 82 percent chance of El Niño arriving between May and July. A weak El Niño is not out of the question, but the likelihood of a strong El Niño is about 55 percent.

Is there a strong El Niño in 2023? ›

Scientists are predicting that 2023 may see the start of a strong El Niño climate pattern. What effect might that have on our lives? Over the coming months, a vast body of warm water will slosh slowly across the tropical Pacific Ocean in the direction of South America.

Will 2023 be a hot year? ›

Summer Forecast 2023 (U.S.)

Summer temperatures, on average, will be near to above normal through most of North America, but expect cooler than normal temperatures out West across the Rockies and Great Basin and also along the central and southern California coast.

How long will El Niño last? ›

El Niñ o añd La Niñ a episodes typically occur every 3-5 years. How long do El Niño and La Niña typically last? El Niñ o typically lasts 9-12 moñths while La Niñ a typically lasts 1-3 years. They both teñd to develop duriñg March- Juñe, reachiñg peak iñteñsity duriñg December-April, añd theñ weakeñiñg duriñg May-July.

Why is El Niño a problem? ›

El Niño has an impact on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and local weather from Australia to South America and beyond. El Niño events occur irregularly at two- to seven-year intervals.

Will 2024 be an El Niño year? ›

Forecasters from the World Meteorological Organization are reporting increased chances that the global climate pattern known as El Niño will arrive by the end of summer. With it comes increased chances for hotter-than-normal temperatures in 2024.

What is the climate prediction for summer 2023? ›

Summer 2023 is expected to be a scorcher for millions of Americans in the West, South and East, according to a long-range outlook issued by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC). The forecast covers the three-month period of June, July and August, also known as meteorological summer.

What are the strongest El Niño years? ›

The five strongest El Niño events since 1950 were in the winters of 1957-58, 1965-66, 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98. It has been 17 years since the last strong El Niño event, the longest such stretch without a strong El Niño in this 65 year period.

Is 2023 El Niño or La Niña? ›

Nevertheless, these recent developments in oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropical Pacific, along with current predictions and expert assessments, are indicating a strong likelihood of El Niño onset in the early second half of 2023, and its continuation during the remainder of the six-month forecast period.

Who is most affected by El Niño? ›

A warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, El Niño 2015-2016 is affecting more than 60 million people, particularly in eastern and southern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region.

Can we prevent El Niño How? ›

Can we prevent El Niño and La Niña from occurring? No, El Niño and La Niña are naturally occurring climate patterns and humans have no direct ability to influence their onset, intensity or duration.

Will the next El Niño be strong? ›

According to the latest ENSO Outlook from @NWSCPC, the El Niño Watch persists with El Niño likely to develop within the next couple of months and then persisting (> 90% chance) into the winter. There's an 80% chance the event will at least be moderate and about a 55% this year's El Niño will be "strong," NOAA said.

Will El Niño bring more snow? ›

El Nino typically brings more snow to the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, while La Nina typically brings more snow to the Southern Rockies and parts of the Midwest. La Nina is an event that occurs when the surface of the Pacific Ocean near the equator is cooler than normal.

Why is it so warm in january 2023? ›

Throughout most of January, the subtropical jet has been pushed warmth and moisture to the United States, bringing record rainfall and snow to the west coast -- particularly California -- while sending the remains of those systems north into Canada.

Will 2023 be a good summer? ›

La Niña is now predicted to end in 2023, bringing warmer conditions in parts of the Pacific Ocean. This is also why 2023 is expected to get hotter than 2022.

Does El Niño mean more rain? ›

When La Niña exists (cold Pacific waters), precipitation drops significantly. During El Niño (warm Pacific waters), precipitation increases significantly.

Which years May be El Niño years? ›

El Niño - 26La Niña - 25
Weak - 11Moderate - 7Moderate - 6
10 more rows

What will happen to the climate in 2023? ›

17 May: the WMO Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update projected that the chance of global near-surface temperature exceeding 1.5°C above preindustrial levels for at least one year between 2023 and 2027 is 66%, though it is unlikely (32%) that the five-year mean will exceed 1.5°C.

What will the climate be in 2023? ›

According to NCEI's Global Annual Temperature Outlook, it is virtually certain (>99.0%) that the year 2023 will rank among the 10-warmest years on record and a ~93% chance it will rank among the top five.

What year will the world be too hot? ›

Future Hot Spots

But climate models tell us certain regions are likely to exceed those temperatures in the next 30-to-50 years. The most vulnerable areas include South Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea by around 2050; and Eastern China, parts of Southeast Asia, and Brazil by 2070.

What areas are affected by El Niño 2023? ›

➢ El Niño oceanographic phenomenon forecast to return in June 2023, following three years of La Niña. ➢ Dry weather conditions expected in key cropping areas of Central America, Southern Africa and Far East Asia, while excessive rainfall and possible flooding foreseen in Near East Asia and East Africa.

What was the worst year of El Niño? ›

The 1997–1998 El Niño was regarded as one of the most powerful El Niño–Southern Oscillation events in recorded history, resulting in widespread droughts, flooding and other natural disasters across the globe.

Does El Niño happen every 7 years? ›

El Niño and La Niña events occur every two to seven years, on average, but they don't occur on a regular schedule.

What diseases are caused by El Niño? ›

In fact, ENSO can affect outbreaks of a variety of diseases, including cholera, Chikungunya, Zika, Rift Valley fever, and plague (yes, that infamous, Medieval-times kind of plague!).

Why El Niño is good? ›

Fewer hurricanes and other tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic. Milder winters in southern Canada and the northern continental United States. Replenishment of water supplies in the southwestern U.S. Less disease in some areas due to drier weather (like malaria in southeastern Africa)

What are the benefits of El Niño? ›

On the other hand, in the United States, El Niño typically brings wet weather to California (benefiting lime, almond, and avocado crops, among others), warmer winters in the Northeast, increased rainfall in the South, diminished tornado activity in the Midwest, and a decrease in the number of hurricanes that hit the ...

Is 2023 summer going to be hot in California? ›

The CPC predicts a hot summer for practically the entire country, including California, saying “the June-July-August (JJA) 2023 temperature outlook favors above normal temperatures over the western contiguous United States (CONUS), the southwest, southeast, and along the eastern seaboard to New England."

How hot will it be in 2030? ›

The study, published Jan. 30 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides new evidence that global warming is on track to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages in the early 2030s, regardless of how much greenhouse gas emissions rise or fall in the coming decade.

Will summer 2023 be hot in Texas? ›

The average temperature for summer is near 84.4 degrees. This takes into account morning low temperatures too. The current outlook shows that most of North Texas will be trending warmer than normal for the majority of summer. Again, it looks unlikely that summer 2023 will be setting any records.

Which is worse El Niño or El Nina? ›

La Nina has wetter conditions for Indonesia, parts of Australia and the Amazon, but those areas are drier in El Nino, according to NOAA. El Nino means more heat waves for India and Pakistan and other parts of South Asia and weaker monsoons there, Ehsan said.

Where does El Niño hit the hardest? ›

The impacts that generally do occur during most El Niño events include below-average rainfall over Indonesia and northern South America, while above average rainfall occurs in southeastern South America, eastern equatorial Africa, and the southern United States.

Why is it raining so much 2023? ›

After tracking round after round of atmospheric rivers dropping heavy rain across the West Coast this year, NOAA satellites observed a new atmospheric river that began impacting the water-logged state on March 19, 2023. This new atmospheric river bringing heavy rain across California and the Southwest.

What does El Niño mean for the east coast 2023? ›

El Niño is likely this summer. Here's what it could mean for weather in the Mid-Atlantic Region. If the anticipated El Niño develops later this Hurricane Season, we could see six fewer named storms, four fewer hurricanes, and less major hurricanes too. Author: Craig Moeller. Published: 11:35 AM EDT May 15, 2023.

Are we entering El Niño? ›

"The forecaster consensus favors ENSO-neutral through summer 2023, with elevated chances of El Niño developing afterwards," the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center said. The La Niña weather pattern is characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Will 2023 be a good year for climate change? ›

According to NCEI's Global Annual Temperature Outlook, it is virtually certain (> 99.0%) that the year 2023 will rank among the 10-warmest years on record.

What is the future predicted for ENSO? ›

Model predictions and expert assessment indicate a moderate probability (60% chance) for the onset of El Niño during May-July 2023. This probability is expected to increase to 60-70% during June-August and it is highly likely (with a chance of 70-80%) that El Niño will persist into the boreal autumn of 2023.

What if El Niño materializes in 2023? ›

El Nino will typically lead to drought. In the past, El Nino has resulted in drought or deficient southwest monsoon in the country. A deficient monsoon could affect the production of kharif crops.

Will 2023 be warmest year on record? ›

According to NCEI's Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook, there is a virtually certain chance (greater than 99.0%) that 2023 will rank among the 10-warmest years on record, and a ~93% chance it will rank among the top five.

Will 2023 be the hottest year on record? ›

The record for Earth's hottest year was set in 2016. There is a 98 percent chance that at least one of the next five years will exceed that, the forecasters said, while the average from 2023 to '27 will almost certainly be the warmest for a five-year period ever recorded.

Are we expecting El Niño? ›

T​he main takeaway: The chance of a wetter winter and spring in 2023-2024 has increased in California and the Southwest, due to the expected development of an El Niño. However as history has shown, it's no guarantee that these areas will have another wet winter and spring ahead.

How long is El Niño going to last? ›

How long does El Niño last? El Niño typically lasts nine months to a year, centered around the Northern Hemisphere's winter months, when the pattern is known to be the strongest and most influential. It often peaks in December and January. La Niña, on the other hand, can last for a year or more.

What is the Southwest monsoon prediction for 2023? ›

Wednesday, May 24: The 2023 southwest monsoon season isn't just likely to arrive slightly later than previously predicted, but its overall performance could also be more subdued than what former forecasts had indicated, as per the latest outlook released by The Weather Company.

How bad will climate change be in 2025? ›

Climate Report. Emissions rates are still growing every year, though that growth has slowed. The world needs to reach negative growth soon to prevent a potential 3.2°C rise by the end of the century.

Will Florida have a cold winter 2023? ›

Highs for the first full weekend of 2023 could drop into the lower 60s across the northern half of the state, with lows in the lower 40s, according to the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.


1. IMD Predicts 96% Rainfall This Year, Says, El Nino Can Impact Second Half Of Monsoon Season
2. El Niño Likely to Arrive By July-August 2023; What does it mean for India
(Down To Earth)
3. El Niño likely to start mid-2023 and cause global average temperatures to exceed 1.5C in 2024
(Paul Beckwith)
4. How this little boy effects rain in India | El Nino
(The Curious Cobra)
5. 'El Nino Watch': What that means for climate change
6. Meteorologist warns Super El Nino ‘very likely’ to hit Australia | 9 News Australia
(9 News Australia)


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