El Niño occurs due to fluctuations in the temperature of the ocean and atmosphere. While it has a warming influence on global temperatures, its opposite, known as La Niña, has the reverse effect. WMO reported a 60% chance of ongoing ENSO-neutral conditions through May, with prospects for an El Niño or La Niña at 35% and 5%, respectively.
The global warming trend also contributes to the above-average sea surface temperature and air temperature forecast, the agency added.
“Even ENSO neutral months are warmer than in the past, as air and sea surface temperatures and ocean heat have increased due to climate change. With more than 90% of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases going into the ocean, ocean heat content is at record levels”, said WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas.
“Thus, 2016 was the warmest year on record as a result of a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming. 2019 was the second warmest year on record, even though there was no strong El Niño. We just had the warmest January on record. The signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as that from a major natural force of nature,” the WMO Secretary-General added.
Read the full WMO press release here.