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May 2022 ENSO Update: Piece of Cake

May 12, 2022
Image of the earth's oceans

Though ENSO is a single climate phenomenon, it has three phases. The two opposite phases, “El Niño” and “La Niña,” require certain changes in both the ocean and the atmosphere because ENSO is a coupled climate phenomenon. “Neutral” is in the middle of the continuum. So what phase are we in now?

If you guessed La Niña, you are correct. During a La Niña, the water is cooler than normal and indeed, since November 2021, surface water temperatures in the tropical pacific have been about 1.0°C colder than average conditions. Will it continue?

The current forecast favors the continuation of La Niña through the summer (87% chance), with a slightly lower chance into the fall (61% chance). A third-year La Niña would be pretty unusual—we’ve only seen two others since 1950.