The ongoing El Niño phenomenon is expected to have a significant impact on global surface air temperatures in the coming years. Areas such as the Bay of Bengal, the Philippines, and the Caribbean Sea are likely to experience record-breaking average surface air temperatures, according to modeling results published in Scientific Reports. This phenomenon, known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, plays a key role in driving climate variability around the world.

Congwen Zhu and colleagues conducted a study to model the effects of the 2023-2024 El Niño on regional variation in average surface air temperatures. Their findings indicate that under a moderate El Niño scenario, the Bay of Bengal and the Philippines are expected to experience record-breaking temperatures. In a stronger El Niño scenario, areas such as the Caribbean Sea, South China Sea, and parts of the Amazon and Alaska could also see record-breaking temperatures.

In addition to regional impacts, the study also looked at the effects of El Niño on global mean surface temperatures (GMST). The results show that there is a 90% chance of GMST breaking historical records under a moderate or strong El Niño scenario. The estimated GMST for the 2023-2024 period ranges from 1.03-1.20 °C above the benchmark mean from 1951-1980.

The authors of the study warn that record-breaking average temperatures could pose challenges for regions unaccustomed to such high levels of heat. This excess heat could lead to an increased likelihood of extreme climate events, including wildfires, tropical cyclones, and heat waves. Coastal and oceanic areas, in particular, may face prolonged periods of extreme conditions due to the higher heat capacity of the ocean.

The impact of El Niño on global surface air temperatures is significant and far-reaching. The modeling results suggest that record-breaking temperatures are likely in various regions, with a high probability of GMST reaching historical highs. As the climate continues to change, it is crucial for policymakers and communities to be prepared for the potential consequences of extreme heat events driven by phenomena such as El Niño.

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