The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change

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Your Tuesday Update: ENSO

We are in an El Niño.

El Niño is one extreme of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a large-scale climate pattern that is still difficult to predict. The ENSO cycle has a huge influence on which parts of the world get what kind of extreme weather–since extreme weather is also a feature of climate change, it makes sense to ask how the two interact, but the truth is we still don’t know.

I’ve written about ENSO before several times–in part because all last year they kept saying we were about to have an El Niño, but we never quite got there. The characteristic warm water in the Pacific was there, but not the accompanying  air patterns. It was very odd. And it makes me wonder–since part of what defines an El Niño is warm water, and since climate change is unquestionably warming the seas, might we start seeing partial El Niño events, in which climate change mimics some aspects of the ENSO cycle? Is that what happened last year?

Just a thought.