ENSO's impact on the United States El Niño and La Niña typically influence weather patterns in the United States in very different ways. Credit: NOAA Climate.gov

How Will Climate Change Change El Nino & La Nina

Nov 9, 2020 at 8:00am

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

As human-caused climate change disrupts weather patterns around the world, one overarching question is the subject of increased scientific focus: how it will affect one of the world’s dominant weather-makers?

The future of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is the subject of a new book published by the American Geophysical Union. With 21 chapters written by 98 authors from 58 research institutions in 16 countries, the volume covers the latest theories, models, and observations, and explores the challenges of forecasting El Niño and La Niña. The book, “El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate” was published online on November 2.

A giant weather-maker
ENSO is a cycle of warm El Niño and cool La Niña episodes that happen every few years in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It is the most dramatic year-to-year variation of the Earth’s climate system, affecting agriculture, public health, freshwater availability, power generation, and economic activity in the United States and around the globe.

“This is the first comprehensive examination of how ENSO, its dynamics and its impacts may change under the influence of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere,” said Michael McPhaden, Senior Scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle and co-editor of the new volume.  Two other co-editors are from Australia: Agus Santoso, a scientist with the University of New South Wales,  and Wenju Cai, a researcher with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, also known as CSIRO.

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