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El Niño Is Officially Back—Here's What Scientists Are Predicting for the Year Ahead

After a years-long hiatus, El Niño has returned. Learn what scientists are predicting for 2023 when it comes to extreme weather events.

el nino 2023 extreme weather
Written by
Riley Baker
El Niño is officially underway. The climate phenomenon—which, according to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
, is characterized by the "warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean"—disrupts weather patterns worldwide. El Niños typically occur every 2 to 7 years, with the last taking place in 2016—the world's
hottest year on record
This time around, it may bring on more extreme weather. In the NOAA's
monthly outlook
released this week, scientists shared that while El Niño's influence on the United States is weak during the summer, by winter, "there's an 84% chance of a greater than a moderate strength El Niño, and a 56% chance of a strong El Niño developing." But what does that mean, exactly?

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"Depending on its strength, El Niño can cause a range of impacts, such as increasing the risk of heavy rainfall and droughts in certain locations around the world," Michelle L'Heureux, a climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Center, said in a
press release
. And by no surprise,
climate change
has the potential to worsen certain impacts related to El Niño. "For example, El Niño could lead to new records for temperatures, particularly in areas that already experience above-average temperatures during El Niño."
It's hard to predict exactly what the next few months will look like. But for now, considering its arrival comes a month or two earlier than past El Niños, University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd
it "has implications for placing 2023 in the running for warmest year on record when combined with climate-warming background." Prepare yourself for the
heat wave
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