UK weather: 'Large' El Niño is possible this summer, Met Office warns

The Met Office say that the El Nino experienced this year could be “large”.

El Nino FILE - In this July 22, 2011 file photo, a lone cotton plant has sprouted through a piece of parched, cracked earth in a West Texas field near Lubbock, Texas, that was not irrigated. A full-blown El Nino has yet to arrive, but moisture coming in from the Pacific could result in a wetter-than-normal winter and spring for drought-stricken Texas. Forecasters initially expected the rain-producing weather pattern to materialize earlier this year. (AP Photo/Betsy Blaney, File)
The El Nino weather event could bring an increased risk of drought to large parts of the world. (AP)

Parts of the world are at increased risk of drought this year due to a possible El Niño weather event, the Met Office has warned.

El Niño events are closely tied to global temperatures and forecasts show that the world will experience one by summer.

It follows the end of another phenomenon known as La Niña, which keeps temperatures cooler and drier.

Campaigners have previously warned that this year’s El Niño could bring “unimaginable heat” and now the Met Office say that the El Niño experienced this year could be “large” – resulting in sea temperatures increasing by as much as 2C.

This event could bring with it an increased risk of drought to south east Asia, India, north-eastern Australia and parts of the Amazon and southern Africa, the forecaster predicted.

Cracked soil lines the Rio Grande on the northern edge of Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. The irrigation canals are all but dry as farmers along the river are setting in for winter, holding out hope that the El Nino weather system will develop and save them from what could otherwise be another dry start to the next growing season. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
El Niño has a knock-on effect on global temperatures that can cause flooding and droughts. (Getty)

Global temperatures would also rise in the year following the winter peak, the Met Office said, but said that it would be “much smaller” than the current level of global warming of around 1.2C.

However, the increased temperatures added to the level of global warming could “make all the difference” in terms of breaking record temperature levels.

Professor Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office said: “The current record for global temperature occurred in 2016 and it’s no coincidence that followed the last big El Niño.”

Watch: Warning of more extreme weather in the UK

While forecasters do not expect the UK to see dramatic rises this year, the pattern of El Niño could mean bigger increases next year.

Scaife added: “If we get a big El Niño at the end of this year then, we’re likely to break the record for global temperature in 2024.”

With La Niña coming to an end and El Niño forecast, Scaife nevertheless warns that summer 2023 will be even hotter.

"Global average temperature over the last three years has been at near record levels, but it would have been even higher without the cooling effects of a prolonged La Niña," Prof Scaife added.

What is El Nino?

El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years.

Temperatures in the Pacific become warmer than normal and El Niño is declared once temperatures rise 0.5C above the long-term average.

This rise has a knock-on effect to weather systems across the world, and can result in extreme weather like droughts and floods.

El Niño is declared when temperatures rise 0.5C above the average in the Pacific Ocean. (Getty)
El Niño is declared when temperatures rise 0.5C above the average in the Pacific Ocean. (Getty)

Drier conditions are usually experiences in Australia and parts of Asia, while warmer conditions are experienced in the Americas and countries like the UK.

The El Niño event in 2016 was the hottest year on record, according to research buy the World Meteorological Organization.

The last El Niño event took place in 2018/2019, and while not as large as the one predicted this year, temperatures in the UK rose in the years that followed.

Young People Cool Off In The Fountains In Trafalgar Square During The Hottest Day Ever Recorded In The Capital, London, UK.
The UK experienced its hottest day ever in July 2022. (PA)

Over the summer of 2020, the UK experienced temperatures that reached 37.8C, making its the second warmest year on record for England at the time.

Last year, temperatures rose even more, with 40.3C recorded at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in July – making it the hottest UK day ever and the heatwave sparking a national emergency.

The Met Office’s long-range forecast suggests that the UK can expect higher than average temperatures in the first half of May.