El Niño is dead. Here’s what to expect in the coming months

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An exceptional drought on the Amazon River was linked to El Niño. Low water levels are observed in the community of Porto Praia, Brazil, in October 2023.



CNN

El Niño has officially ended and the repercussions of its disappearance will change weather patterns around the world.

El Niño – a natural phenomenon marked by warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean – has gripped the planet since early last summer. It reached super status earlier this year after increasing temperatures in the hottest year on record and influencing other global weather events.

With El Niño out of the spotlight, Its opposite is about to take center stage later this summer: La Niña.

For the moment, neither La Niña nor El Niño are present and a so-called neutral phase has begun, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. But that will change quickly as La Niña develops over the summer and will likely be firmly under control by September, the height of hurricane season.

Here’s what a summer without El Niño and pudding without La Niña could have in store for us.

The La Niña summers that follow strong El Niño winters have historically been among the warmest. registered in the United States. This summer couldn’t be any different, even before La Niña takes hold.

Above average temperatures are expected across most of the Lower 48 this summer. Scorching conditions started early in the west and a July-like heat surge is spreading across the eastern half of the country.

The transition to La Niña is not the only factor influencing temperatures during the hottest time of the year. They are still on the rise in a world that is warming due to fossil fuel pollution.

Along with more intense heat, seasonal forecasts show a concerning precipitation trend for much of the western half of the United States. Drier than normal conditions are expected across most of the Western states and parts of the Plains.

Drought and heat are cyclical. The warmer a region becomes, the drier it becomes, which could be a sign of a new or worsening drought. A dry area will then become even hotter, because most of the sun’s energy goes to heating the ground, with little energy lost through evaporation from the wet soil.

The disappearance of El Niño will also have major consequences in the Atlantic Ocean and is a key reason why experts are calling for an overactive hurricane season.

El Niño tends to create hostile winds aloft that tear through storms, while La Niña does the opposite. So other storms could occur this year without El Niño slowing them down. El Niño also won’t be around to keep many storms away from the United States, which could leave coasts vulnerable this season.

Record water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean could also serve as food for storms, helping them form, strengthen and survive.

The Atlantic is not the only wet ocean either. Over the past year, El Niño has helped push average ocean temperatures to record highs. La Niña could eventually have a cooling effect on the planet’s oceans, stabilizing some of the runaway warming of the past year.

But that won’t happen anytime soon. The oceans are incredibly slow to cool, especially since about 90% of the world’s excess heat produced by the burning of planet-warming fossil fuels is stored there.

Marcio José Sánchez/AP

An SUV is buried by a mudslide on February 1. December 5, 2024, in the Beverly Crest neighborhood of Los Angeles. El Niño is closely linked to a wetter winter in California, like what happened this year.

El Niño arrived in June 2023 and eventually became one of the strongest on record. He influenced the world throughout his existence.

Most notably, El Niño helped push air and ocean temperatures to record highs globally. Every month from June 2023 to May 2024 was the world’s hottest month on record, CNN previously reported.

View this interactive content on CNN.com

Global ocean temperatures first reached record highs in March 2023 and have remained at historic levels since then.

Although the records began before El Niño arrived, the warm weather only exacerbated the situation as record heat from the air seeped into the oceans.

View this interactive content on CNN.com

The natural climate pattern has also influenced many significant weather events since last summer.

El Niño likely contributed to the hot, dry conditions in northern South America that brought the Amazon River to record highs in October, the warmest winter on record in the Lower 48 of the United States and a severe drought in large parts of central and southern Africa this winter.

Parts of coastal Africa typically see more rain during El Niño events, but excessive rainfall occurred with devastating and deadly effects in Kenya in April and May.

Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images

A woman wades through floodwaters in a flooded residential area in Garissa, Kenya, May 9, 2024.

California and the western United States also typically receive more rain during El Niño, particularly during the winter months. This happened last winter when several powerful atmospheric river events hit the West Coast.

Further research is needed to determine the full impact of El Niño over the past 12 months, but these events are proof of the reach of this highly influential phenomenon.

CNN’s Laura Paddison contributed to this report.

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