El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)

Spherical map of the tropical Pacific Ocean showing surface temperatures in January 2021 compared to average


La Niña—the cool phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern—is still here in February 2021, but forecasters estimate about a 60% chance that neutral conditions will return this spring.

Latest official ENSO update

Latest ENSO blog update

(image at left) Maps of January 2021 sea surface temperatures compared to average show a large swath of cooler than average waters in the tropical Pacific, one of the signs of La Niña.

El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO” for short.

The pattern can shift back and forth irregularly every two to seven years, and each phase triggers predictable disruptions of temperature, precipitation, and winds.

These changes disrupt the large-scale air movements in the tropics, triggering a cascade of global side effects.

More about El Niño
What is El Niño in a nutshell?
Understanding El Niño (video)
ENSO alert system criteria
ENSO essentials
Educational Resources on ENSO

Globes showing typical climate impacts over the U.S. during El Niño and La Niñaca

El Niño is anchored in the tropical Pacific, but it affects climate "downstream" in the United States. In the summer, El Niño's primary influence on U.S. climate is on the hurricane season in both the eastern Pacific and the Atlantic. In winter, it influences the jet stream and the path of storms that move from the Pacific over the United States. 

Typical ENSO impacts
Winter temperature and precipitation
Hurricane season impacts
Current outlooks
6-10 day outlook
8-14 day outlook
1-month outlook
3-month outlook

El Niño and La Niña have their strongest influence on global climate during the Northern Hemisphere winter. During La Niña winters, the southern tier of the United States is often drier than normal. Northern Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are often wetter than normal. 

More information
ENSO's cascade of global impacts
The Walker Circulation
More maps of global impacts of La Niña and El Niño

February 2021 ENSO update: library time

February 11, 2021

La Niña is still here, but forecasters estimate about a 60% chance that neutral conditions will return this spring. Read more

(left) The early February 2021 ENSO "model plume" that shows the range of predictions made by a half dozen models for departures from average sea surface temperature in the tropical Pacific in coming months.