If You Think the Weather Is Bad Now, Wait Until El Niño Returns

Droughts, high temperatures, heavy rain and floods are all sparked by the El Niño weather pattern.

Photo Credit: CLS Design/Shutterstock.com

The year 2015 could see disastrous weather all over the globe caused by El Niño: droughts, high temperatures, heavy rain and floods.  A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that the El Niño weather pattern will occur next year.

El Niño refers to a recurring weather pattern that develops off the west coast of South America and causes warm temperatures and changes in the climate.  Usually, scientists can predict El Niño a few months before it occurs.  But this study, by a group of researchers from Germany, Israel, the U.S. and Russia, predicts it a year before.

“It is a fascinating article and the methodology, if it holds up, would indeed revolutionize long-term climate forecasting in that it will break through the 'spring predictability barrier' that has plagued El Niño predictions in the past," meteorologist Michael Mann of Penn State told USA Today. Other climate scientists were more skeptical of the study.

The researchers say there is a 75% chance El Niño will happen later this year, causing potentially disastrous weather next year.  El Niño can spark droughts in Australia and increased rain and floods in parts of the U.S. and South America.

While there is no definitive proof, El Niño has been linked to global warming.  One study published last year suggested that “El Niño may get stronger as the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere climbs,” as Scientific American reported.

If the new El Niño study is correct, “we will likely see a new global temperature record in 2015," Penn State’s Mann told USA Today. "Perhaps that will put to rest once and for all the silly notion, promoted by climate change contrarians, that climate change has 'stopped'."


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.