Many parts of the world are likely to see above-average temperatures over the next few months – even without a natural “El Niño” effect which pushes up the mercury, experts said.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned that the signal from human-induced climate change was now as powerful as the natural phenomenon which drives warmer temperatures.
The WMO said there was a 60% chance of a “neutral” situation, without an El Niño or its opposite La Niña, over the months from March to May. There is only a 35% chance of an El Niño developing and just 5% for a La Niña.
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Pacific which has a warming influence on global temperatures and is also linked to heavy rains, floods and droughts.
Despite the likely absence of an El Niño, the WMO forecasts that there will be above-average sea surface temperatures in many parts of the world, which will lead to higher than normal land temperatures.
Climate change is contributing to the above-average sea surface temperature and air temperature forecast, the WMO said.
The UN agency’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: “Even ENSO neutral months are warmer than in the past, as air and sea surface temperatures and ocean heat have increased due to climate change.
“With more than 90% of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases going into the ocean, ocean heat content is at record levels.
“Thus, 2016 was the warmest year on record as a result of a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming. 2019 was the second-warmest year on record, even though there was no strong El Niño.
“We just had the warmest January on record. The signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as that from a major natural force of nature,” he said.
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