In our day-to-day lives, weather concerns typically revolve around what’s going on for the week. We’re interested in daily forecasts unless we know a major shift is coming, and then we do our best to adjust.

But how do we prepare for major changes that go beyond a week or so? Right now, weather forecasters are concerned about the El Niño weather pattern, the brother of the formidable La Niña. Both are part of what’s called ENSO, El Niño-Southern Oscillation pattern, which influences global weather.

According to the American Geosciences Institute, El Niño and La Niña cause disturbances to sea surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, particularly near the Equator. When things are normal, eastern Pacific temps stay cool while the western side is warm.

El Niño describes what happens when the norm is flipped, making eastern waters uncharacteristically warm and causing trade winds to lighten up. Those warm waters from the western side of the Pacific move east along the Equator, turning weather on its head.

Why is this concerning? Although the ENSO pattern affects the world’s climate every three to seven years, we are currently in a cycle. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say there’s a 70% chance that we’ll see El Niño conditions by winter of this year.

If you’re wondering what this means for your area, here’s a breakdown of typical winter weather conditions created by El Niño’s influence:

  • Southeast Asia and Australia – warmer temperatures accompanied by dry conditions in some parts
  • California and southwestern US – wetter weather with constant rainfall
  • Southern US – colder temperatures though this could vary
  • Midwest US – drier than usual
  • South America (Pacific coast) – wet
  • Canada – warmer winter temperatures

Bear in mind that these are the predicted effects of El Niño but there are other factors that may cause the forecast to change. Depending on the region, El Niño can trigger events such as droughts, hurricanes, floods, or dangerous winter storms. However, in the US, it may mean less hurricane weather from the Atlantic Ocean.

Because of a wetter winter season in some parts of the US, that could spell disaster in terms of mudslides and flooding. In other parts of the world where the ground and air are dry, crops may get destroyed, messing up supply and financial markets.

The presence of El Niño can also have a dramatic effect on marine life, reducing fish populations in waters where wildlife and local economies depend on them. It’s still too early to tell how or if El Niño will be wild enough to devastate lands across the globe, but meteorologists are keeping a close eye on it.

Click below for a detailed explanation of this dual weather pattern and what it means for the planet. Remember to pay special attention to the weather reports on this system for your area so you can prepare accordingly.

Do you have bad memories from El Niño impact in your region? What’s the worse you’ve encountered? Are you inclined not to worry about this weather pattern?



National Geographic