Photo-illustration: Freepik (mb-photoarts)

Last summer, I shared with you my impressions of the coast of Dalmatia. As I wrote then, the Adriatic Sea is mostly cold, but in 2023, the sea temperatures were unusually high. On some days, the sea was almost uncomfortably warm. At the same time, the weather in various parts of Croatia was very varied. While the days in Dalmatia were tropical, storms engulfed the north of Croatia, accompanied by strong winds and rain.

All of this could be attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, i.e. the warming of the Pacific. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently confirmed that in 2023, El Niño was one of the five strongest weather phenomena in history. Although the new data showed that it is gradually weakening at the moment, its impact on the global climate will continue in the coming months. All this will lead to higher temperatures in almost all continental parts of the world from March to May.

Monitoring shows that El Niño occurs on average every two to seven years and lasts about 12 months, but sometimes it can last for years. Although this phenomenon causes high sea/ocean temperatures, the WMO says that El Niño shouldn’t be blamed for everything. It is very worrying that the sea/ocean temperatures in January 2024 were the highest recorded for this period of the year. Moreover, this is not a small increase, but a rather significant one.

The WMO analysis showed that there is about a 60 per cent chance that El Niño will persist during the March-May period and an 80 per cent chance of neutral weather conditions in the April-June period, that is, that neither the El Niño nor La Niña phenomena will occur. But what is La Niña? It is a weather phenomenon that is not mentioned that often and has not gained such notoriety as El Niño.

It is interesting to note that in the Spanish language, these two phenomena in translation mean a little boy (El Niño) and a little girl (El Niño). Little Boy causes the Pacific to warm thus affecting weather conditions in the northern United States and Canada to become warmer and drier, while the southeastern Gulf of Mexico experiences wetter conditions and more frequent flooding. On the other hand, a „little girl“ has the complete opposite effect. Its cold waters in the Pacific lead to droughts in the southern US and more intense rains and floods in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

There are numerous consequences caused by these two phenomena. Although they are two opposite climatic phenomena, both are disruptive. However, El Niño occurs more often.

It remains to be seen how accurate the WMO forecasts for the following months are. Other forecasts show that El Niño could lead to 2024 becoming the hottest year on record.

Katarina Vuinac