What is El Niño and how does it affect the weather?

With La Niña in the rearview mirror, AccuWeather meteorologists explain how its counterpart, El Niño, can play a role in global weather patterns

A major key to shaping weather patterns worldwide is found in the tropical Pacific Ocean, far from any mainland. Known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), this climate phenomenon is the pattern that can create significant differences in average ocean temperatures and often plays a pivotal role in how global weather patterns unfold.

The ENSO pattern occurs in three stages. The neutral state indicates that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are near a long-term historical average, while La Niña results in ocean temperatures that are cooler than the historical average along with stronger surface winds.

The third state is El Niño, which occurs when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time. El Niño, Spanish for “little boy,” was named in reference to Jesus Christ due to the timing of the warm ocean waters. The term originated from South America in the 1800s, when warmer waters around the Christmas holiday negatively impacted fish catches.

Low-level surface winds also tend to weaken during El Niños as […]

Full article: What is El Nino and how does it affect the weather?