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UN: Prepare for Extreme Heat

FILE: A tourist bus rides past a thermometer displaying 49 Celsius degrees (120.2 Fahrenheit degrees) at Gran Via during the second heatwave of the year in Madrid, Spain, July 15, 2022.

GENE VA - The United Nations warned Wednesday of a growing likelihood the weather phenomenon El Nino will develop in coming months, fueling higher global temperatures and possibly new heat records.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization said there was a 60-percent chance that El Nino would develop by the end of July, and an 80-percent chance it would do so by the end of September.

El Nino, which is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, as well as drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere, last occurred in 2018-19.

Since 2020 though, the world has been hit with an exceptionally long La Nina - El Nino's cooling opposite - which ended earlier this year, ceding way to the current neutral conditions.

And yet, the U.N. has said the last eight years were the warmest ever recorded, despite La Nina's cooling effect stretching over nearly half that period.

Without that weather phenomenon, the warming situation could have been even worse.

La Nina "acted as a temporary brake on global temperature increase", WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Now, he said, "the world should prepare for the development of El Nino."

The expected arrival of the warming climate pattern, he said, "will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records".

WMO pointed out that 2016 was "the warmest year on record because of the 'double whammy' of a very powerful El Nino event and human-induced warming from greenhouse gases".

"We are expecting in the coming two years to have a serious increase in the global temperatures," Okia said.

Taalas highlighted that the expected arrival of El Nino could have some positive effects, pointing out that it "might bring respite from the drought in the Horn of Africa and other La Nina-related impacts".

But it "could also trigger more extreme weather and climate events" he said, stressing the need for effective early warning systems "to keep people safe".

El Nino occurs on average every two to seven years, and usually lasts nine to 12 months.

It is typically associated with warming ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Increased rainfall is usually seen in parts of southern South America, the southern United States, the Horn of Africa and central Asia, while severe droughts can occur over Australia, Indonesia and parts of southern Asia.

During summer in the northern hemisphere, El Nino's warm water can also fuel hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, while hindering hurricane formations in the Atlantic Basin, WMO said.