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) El Niño likely to start mid-2023 and cause global average temperatures to exceed 1.5C in 2024

"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) El Niño in a Changing Climate
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 Niño will be Catastrophic in 2023. Here's why.


Is there a warning for 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.

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.

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.

When can we expect an El Niño year? ›

El Niño is forecast to return in 2023. Here's what the phenomenon means for extreme weather and global warming. El Niño is set to return this year, and it could push the world past a new average temperature record. The global weather phenomenon refers to when waters in the Pacific Ocean become much warmer than usual.

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.

Will winter 2023 be El Niño or La Niña? ›

Here's how it differs from La Niña, what it means for the PNW. Just as three consecutive La Niñas finally stop affecting global weather patterns, conditions in the swirling waters of the Pacific Ocean strongly suggest an El Niño could arrive in the coming months, weather experts say.

What will happen to the climate in 2023? ›

Published. Geneva, 17 May 2023 (WMO) – Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event, according to a new update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

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.

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.

What will be the highest temperature this summer 2023? ›

Maximum Temperature
  • Churu. 50°C.
  • Sri Ganganagar. 50°C.
  • Bilaspur. 49°C.
  • Nagpur. 48°C.
  • Banda. 48°C.
  • Vijaywada. 45°C.
  • Jhansi. 47°C.
  • Titlagarh. 45.5°C.
Mar 14, 2023

Will summer 2023 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."

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.

What are 2 major problems caused by El Niño? ›

El Niño causes the Pacific jet stream to move south and spread further east. During winter, this leads to wetter conditions than usual in the Southern U.S. and warmer and drier conditions in the North. El Niño also has a strong effect on marine life off the Pacific coast.

What are 5 impacts of El Niño? ›

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.

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.

Why is it so warm in january 2023? ›

Why was it so warm? While January 2023 may be most remembered for the ceaseless deluge of rain that eased California's drought conditions, the same jet stream configuration also flooded the United States with mild, Pacific air.

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.

Where will El Niño be in 2023? ›

Starting in the May to July 2023 period, the probability of El Niño rises to 90%. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) markedly boosted the odds that an El Niño event will form in the tropical Pacific Ocean this summer, hastening climate change and altering global weather patterns.

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.

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.

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.

Why is it so cold in California 2023? ›

This has been caused by frequent atmospheric rivers funnelling into western North America, and a recent analysis by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that over the course of this water year (1 October 2022 to 30 September 2023) 31 atmospheric river events have affected the west coast so far.

Does El Niño mean more snow? ›

In general, El Niño conditions lead to wetter, snowier conditions in Amarillo and cooler maximum temperatures during the winter. La Niña conditions lead to drier and warmer temperatures overall, with notable extreme cold spells. In stronger El Niño or La Niña episodes, these trends are even greater.

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.

Will climate change get worse 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.

How bad will climate change be in 2025? ›

The chance of at least one year exceeding the current warmest year, 2016, in the next five years is 90% Over 2021-2025, almost all regions, except parts of the southern oceans and the North Atlantic are likely to be warmer than the recent past (defined as the 1981-2010 average)

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.

What will the CO2 level be in 2023? ›

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2023 measured levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that haven't been as high for millions of years. Atmospheric CO2 reached an average of 424 parts per million in May, an increase of 3 parts per million over the same time last year.

How hot will the US be in 2050? ›

Swaths of the country will see at least one day per year with a heat index of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. This summer is already marked by megadroughts and extreme heat waves across the globe.

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 is the strongest El Niño on record? ›

The strongest El Niño event was in the winter of 1997-98, where the ONI peaked at 2.3. Oceanic Niño Index since 1950. Noted years represent the seven El Niño events where the ONI exceeded a value of 1.5, the definition of a strong El Niño.

Does El Niño cause drought? ›

Typically, El Niño and its warm waters are associated with drought, while La Niña is linked to increased flooding. But, because the global weather system is very complex, this isn't always the case. For example, in 2015 El Niño caused both flooding and droughts in different places.

Which is the coldest place in the world 2023? ›

Yakutsk, Russia — minus 80 F (minus 62.2 C)

On Jan. 18, 2023, the Siberian city broke a new record when temperatures dropped to minus 80 F (minus 62.2 C) — the coldest in nearly two decades.

What's the hottest city in the world? ›

Dallol, Ethiopia

In terms of extreme heat, no place holds a candle to Dallol, the hottest place on earth. Located in the sizzling Danakil Depression (a geological landform sunken below the surrounding area), it can reach a boiling 145 degrees in the sun.

Which is hottest place in world? ›

The formula brought them to the Lut Desert in Iran. And to the badlands of Queensland, Australia. And to the Flaming Mountain. Seven years of satellite temperature data show that the Lut Desert in Iran is the hottest spot on Earth.

Will 2023 be a wet year in California? ›

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there's a 50% to 60% chance weather in central and Northern California will be wetter than usual for this time of the year.

Is California getting hotter or colder? ›

Average California winter temperatures, 1896-2023

Scatterplot shows the average winter temperature for California over the past 130 years. There is a slight warming trend, though large variability from year to year. The data point for 2023, with an average of 42.8 degrees, is highlighted.

Is California hot because of climate change? ›

California's climate is changing. Southern California has warmed about three degrees (F) in the last century and all of the state is becoming warmer.

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.

How is El Niño harmful? ›

An El Niño typically brings drought to the western Pacific (including Australia), rains to the equatorial coast of South America, and storms and hurricanes to the central Pacific (see Chart 1, which shows the climatological effects across two different seasons).

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.

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!).

How do you prevent El Niño? ›

There is nothing we can do to stop El Niño and La Niña events from occurring. The year-to-year oscillations between normal, warm, and cold conditions in the tropical Pacific associated with the ENSO cycle involve massive redistributions of upper ocean heat.

What are the benefits of El Niño? ›

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)

How can we reduce the effects of El Niño? ›

Here are a few suggestions to help you protect your property from the damaging effects of El Niño.
  1. Evaluate your Property. ...
  2. Protect Against Soil Erosion. ...
  3. Use Sustainable Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees. ...
  4. Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Trees. ...
  5. Keep Storm Drains Clear.
Jan 18, 2018

What is El Niño in simple terms? ›

The term El Niño (Spanish for 'the Christ Child') refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Is 2024 El Niño or La Niña? ›

NOAA researchers have predicted that an ocean-heating event known as El Niño is probably going to arrive in the next few months and persist into 2024. The chance of the ocean-warming event known as El Niño hitting this year is now over 90%.

What winter conditions for the US can be expected in an El Niño year? ›

During an El Niño winter, the temperatures in the northern U.S. are usually warmer and drier than average, and the southern parts of the continental U.S. are usually cooler and wetter.

Will 2023 be El Niño or La Niña? ›

Starting in the May to July 2023 period, the probability of El Niño rises to 90%. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) markedly boosted the odds that an El Niño event will form in the tropical Pacific Ocean this summer, hastening climate change and altering global weather patterns.

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.

Will El Niño bring rain to California? ›

For California — a state already bracing for potentially devastating floods due to epic snowmelt — a strong El Niño could bring a second consecutive winter of above-average precipitation, accompanied by landslides, floods and coastal erosion.

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.

How does El Niño affect United States? ›

El Niño causes the Pacific jet stream to move south and spread further east. During winter, this leads to wetter conditions than usual in the Southern U.S. and warmer and drier conditions in the North. El Niño also has a strong effect on marine life off the Pacific coast.

What years were the worst El Niño on record? ›

The 1982-1983 El Niño was the strongest and most devastating of the century, perhaps the worst in recorded history. During that period, trade winds not only collapsed--they reversed.

Which is worse El Niño or La Niña? ›

In the United States, because La Nina is connected to more Atlantic storms and deeper droughts and wildfires in the West, La Ninas often are more damaging and expensive than their more famous flip side, El Nino, experts said and studies show. Generally, American agriculture is more damaged by La Nina than El Nino.


1. Cost of El Niño events in 2023 l Agriculture, Health and Fishing 🔥
(Curiosity Juice)
2. El Nino costs the world over $3 trillion | World Business News
3. How El Niño and La Niña cause extreme weather
(The Economist)
4. Why I think the next El Niño will be a Super-El Nino and Occur in 2024-2025: Record Warm Oceans
(Paul Beckwith)
5. El Nino is Getting Close to Beginning | 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season
(Deciphering Weather)
6. PAGASA announces higher possibility of ‘strong’ El Niño occurrence in June
(UNTV News and Rescue)
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