El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)
El Niño remains strong, with continued warmth in the surface waters of the east-central tropical Pacific and wind and rainfall disruptions across the entire basin. Most indicators are starting to show weakening, however. El Niño is likely to become neutral by late spring or early summer 2016, with a possible shift to La Niña in the fall.
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.
In part due to the influence of El Niño, there is an increased chance that Feb–Apr will be wetter than usual across the southern tier of the United States, and drier than usual over the northern tier. Above-average temperatures are favored in the North and West, and below-average temperatures are favored in the southern Plains and along the Gulf Coast.
Typical U.S El Niño impacts
Historical risk of seasonal extremes
Historical perspective on strong El Niños
Winter precipitation patterns during every El Niño since 1950
Winter temperature patterns for every El Niño since 1950
El Niño has its strongest impact on global climate during the Northern Hemisphere winter & early spring. The most reliable global impacts are dryness over Indonesia and northern South America, below-average rains during the Indian Monsoon, and excess rainfall in southeastern South America, eastern Africa near the equator, and across the southern U.S.
Hurricane activity is often suppressed in the Atlantic and amplified in the eastern North Pacific. The risk of coral bleaching increases, and populations of marine plants in the eastern tropical Pacific (and the animals that depend on them) sometimes crash.
El Niño update:
Q & A...and some Thursday-morning quarterbacking
How strong is our strong El Niño? And what could El Niño have to do with the Denver Broncos? Blogger Emily Becker answers questions about ENSO events, current and past.
Featured Resources & Articles
ENSO across NOAA
Societal & ecosystem impacts
Regional & Local Impacts
ENSO @ the Ocean Institute of Peru (Spanish)
ENSO @ the Centro Internacional para la Investigación del Fenómeno de El Niño (CIIFEN) (western South America, Spanish)
Events & Announcements
NOAA National Weather Service Daily Briefing
Briefing page with forecasts, discussions, maps, assessments, and severe weather outlooks for today’s developing weather patterns across the United States.
NOAA Monthly Climate Briefing for Media
Thursday, February 18, at 11 am EST
Teleconference for public media on past month’s weather & climate conditions for the U.S. & globe, an update on El Niño, and NOAA’s 3-month climate outlook.
California Winter Status Update
January 26, 4 - 6 pm EST