NOAA comparison shows El Niño in 1997 and 2023. More orange colors show the oceans are warmer this year. — Photo 1: NOAA/Disclosure — Photo 2: NOAA/Disclosure
As you can see in the images above, the climate episode known for the abnormal warming of surface waters in the eastern Equatorial Pacific near the coasts of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia (yelloworange band on maps) is manifesting itself in a unique way this current time of year.
Simultaneously with the development of El Niño, we are confronted with strong warming of the oceans in regions of the world other than the equatorial part of the Pacific, especially in large stretches emanating from the Pacific North Atlantic for the Mediterranean Sea.
Since this climatic situation is complex and very different from normal, scientists warn that the possible consequences of all this are still unknown.
“Right now we are facing an El Niño occurring in the middle of a very warm global ocean, and we do not know how our warmer planet will affect El Niño atmospheric conditions,” NOAA said in a statement.
According to MetSul, the current El Niño episode is so unique that it differs even from the extreme phenomena of 19821983 and 19971998 known as “Super El Niños.” While on those earlier occasions El Niño marked the main area of anomalous ocean warming, this phenomenon is no longer prevalent today.
Karina Lima, PhD student in climatology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), explains that the causes of this scenario are still under investigation, but so far it is believed that it is a combination of different factors: changes in atmospheric circulation, air pollution and the trend of climate change.
“The North Atlantic anomaly is absurd,” says the researcher. “This El Niño is occurring in the context of increasing global warming of the oceans and we still don’t know how this will affect circulation patterns. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to predict the impact of El Niño on global climate.”
1 of 3 Extreme heat warning sign in Death Valley, California, US on July 15, 2023 Photo: Jorge Garcia/Portal Extreme heat warning sign in Death Valley, California, US on July 15, 2023 Photo: Jorge Garcia/Portal
El Niño is one of the factors that could affect forecasts of record temperatures for the next four years. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is a 66% chance that average annual warming will exceed 1.5°C between 2023 and 2027.
This is the maximum increase in average global temperature rate set for this century to avoid the consequences of the humancaused climate crisis.
The problem is that temperatures in most oceans are above average and it is quite difficult to predict exactly what will happen to the global climate.
“[Temos um] “El Niño is happening with unprecedented global situations,” warns climatologist Carlos Nobre.
2 of 3 Daily average sea surface temperatures Photo: Arte/g1 Daily average sea surface temperatures Photo: Arte/g1
“Global climate change brings with it many climate extremes, but predicting them months in advance is difficult. For example, large parts of Europe experienced record heat in the summer last year.”
“We’re in really uncharted territory now,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s global climate research program.
Here, climate scientists and meteorologists say that Brazil will feel the impact of El Niño and the appearance of new extratropical cyclones like this in the coming months which reached the southern and southeastern regions.
The great mystery remains, however, as to the consequences of this “other” El Niño, marked by temperature anomalies even in the North Pacific.
NOAA comparison shows El Niño in 1997 and 2023. More orange colors show the oceans are warmer this year. Photo: NOAA/Disclosure
“It is currently not possible to say whether this will make the El Niño longer, stronger or not shorter,” emphasizes Nobre.
According to NOAA, one possible consequence of this change is a weaker than expected atmospheric response. “The strength of this response is related to the pattern of sea surface temperatures in the tropics. When El Niño is the dominant force, as was the case with the 199798 El Niño, the atmospheric response is more evident,” he says.
However, the agency also points to the uncertainty in the coming months due to the current climate situation, especially if the western Pacific and other tropical regions also experience significant warming.
According to MetSul, from the end of winter, even in this worrying scenario, the consequences of El Niño in southern Brazil are only likely to intensify, bringing characteristic climatic responses such as aboveaverage precipitation and high temperatures, especially in late winter and spring.
The weather service warns that the next three to four months could be marked by significant excess rainfall in the region, with a focus on the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which can experience frequent flooding and storms, just as one would expect during a strong to very strong El Niño period.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet) reiterates that global climate models indicate a more than 90% chance that El Niño will last through the end of the year. In terms of intensity, the models suggest that the phenomenon will remain at moderate levels, with the possibility of reaching the high intensity category.
3 of 3 El Niño impact on winter in each Brazilian region Photo: Arte/g1 El Niño impact on winter in each Brazilian region Photo: Arte/g1
⛈️☀️Remember what El Niño is
El Niño is the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. When it is in use, the summer heat intensifies and the winter is less severe in Brazil. This is because it impedes the advance of cold fronts in the country, making the falls more subtle and shorter.
In summary, the phenomenon results in droughts (below average rainfall) in the north and northeast of the country, especially in the more equatorial regions, and excessive rainfall in the south and southeast.