Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A view from space of Typhoon Halong in 2014. Such extreme weather events are expected to proliferate during the historic El Nino event this year. (Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/cc/flickr)

A view from space of Typhoon Halong in 2014. Such extreme weather events are expected to proliferate during the historic El Nino event this year. (Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/cc/flickr)

Record El Niño Puts the 'Icing' on Global Warming Cake

Human induced climate change will exacerbate the naturally-occurring phenomenon known as El Niño to push global temperatures to record highs

Lauren McCauley

Human-induced climate change has pushed the Earth to the brink of a major shift as scientists predict rapidly rising global temperatures within the next two years.

A study, titled Big Changes Underway in the Climate System? (pdf) and published by the British Meteorological Office, notes that heightened greenhouse gas emissions will exacerbate the naturally-occurring phenomenon known as El Niño to push global temperatures to record highs.

This temporary warming of surface waters in the Pacific, known as El Niño, drives dramatic shifts in rainfall, temperature, and wind patterns worldwide, and can last for months or even years.

In the short term, this means that the Southern Hemisphere can expect record heatwaves during its 2015-2016 summer season, coupled with the extreme weather events, such as typhoons, typically associated with an El Niño. 

"It looks very likely that globally 2014, 2015 and 2016 will all be amongst the very warmest years ever recorded," said scientist Rowan Sutton, who peer-reviewed the study.

"This is not a fluke," Sutton, who works for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, continued. "We are seeing the effects of energy steadily accumulating in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, caused by greenhouse gas emissions."

In the most recent El Niño update released last Thursday, the National Weather Service also noted the planet is currently experiencing the upswing of one of the strongest El Niño events, and quite possibly the strongest, of the past 65 years of recordkeeping.

More broadly, researchers say that the Earth may be seeing the end of a global slowdown in surface temperature increases—known by some as the global warming "pause"—and can expect to enter a period of higher temperature increases, returning to the heightened rate seen before the downtrend began. 

"It is now likely that decadal warming rates will reach late 20th century levels in the next couple of years," said the study's lead researcher, professor Adam Scaife, of the Met Office Hadley Centre.

The study comes as international delegates are preparing for the COP21 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris from November 30 to December 11, during which they are expected to cement climate policies with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Scaife notes that the combination of both natural and man-made factors has brought us to a "turning point" in the Earth's climate trajectory.

"We believe we are at an important point in the time series of the Earth's climate and we'll look back on this period as an important turning point," he said. "That's why we're emphasizing it because we're seeing so many big changes at once."

Scaife notes that El Niños and atmospheric oscillations in the Atlantic are "natural." However, he adds, "they are now occurring on top of the influence coming from man's activity, so when they occur, when an El Niño comes and raises the global temperature, that is the icing on the cake, that is the extra bit that creates a record." 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Denounces a Pentagon Budget System Found 'Inherently Susceptible to Fraud'

"They don't seem to want to get serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively," said the Vermont senator, declaring it "absolutely unacceptable."

Andrea Germanos ·


Campaigners to Biden: Stop Acting Like a Big Pharma 'Puppet' and Help Vaccinate the World

"Status quo protection of the intellectual property rights of profiteering pharmaceutical companies will not save us from this pandemic."

Jake Johnson ·


'An Atrocity': Poor Go Without as Rich Nations Set to Let 100 Million Covid Vaccines Rot

"Poorer countries shouldn't have to wait until our doses are about to expire to vaccinate their populations."

Andrea Germanos ·


Haiti Official Demands 'Humanitarian Moratorium' as US Ramps Up Deportations

The administration's rapid removal of refugees and migrants was denounced as "reprehensible" and "cruel."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo