The El Niño 2015-16 in the Context of Past El Niños
The 2015/16 El Niño Event
An El Niño event was officially declared in March 2015, gaining in intensity until it reached its peak in December 2015. The event came to an end in May 2016, becoming one the strongest on record, together with the El Niños of 1982-83 and 1997-98.
The Special Nature of the 2015-16 El Niño Some particular features of this El Niño deserve special consideration. We can highlight these features by comparing the evolution of the three strongest El Niños on record from the year preceding their onset until the year of their ending.
We can see that the El Niño 2015-16:
• was preceded by El Niño-like effects – borderline El Niño conditions were in place since mid-2014 but never fulfilled the required criteria. Nevertheless, significant El Niño like impacts were felt across the Globe
• was one of the strongest in the available record
• was one of the longest lived El Niños on record This combination of precursor El Niño-like impacts in the run-up to the main event, its high intensity and its long duration resulted in an extended period of extreme dryness at a near global scale which had serious implications for the food security of large numbers of people around the globe.
The El Niño 2015-16: Global Multi-Year Impacts
El Niño Impacts: Global and Extreme
The combination of intensity and longevity of this El Niño, led to severe impacts that extended over multiple growing seasons and across the globe.
These impacts are mapped by analysing the two year rainfall from June 2014 to May 2016, a period which includes the quasi El Niño conditions from mid 2014 and the full blown El Niño from March 2015 to May 2016.
This two year rainfall amount was analysed in terms of how extreme it stands within the historical record (1981-2016).
Extreme was defined as amounts falling in the driest or wettest 10% of the record – corresponding to amounts that were the 3 rd driest (wettest) or worse.
Dry extremes are represented in dark brown while wet extremes are represented in dark blue. Less extreme drier and wetter than average regions are also depicted in lighter shades.
The map makes clear the truly global extent of extreme conditions during the two year period from mid 2014-mid 2016. In particular, areas of extreme dryness over multiple growing seasons affected some of the most vulnerable and food insecure populations across the globe.
The cumulative impacts of this global, multi year drought will now filter through until early 2017 at least.