According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), there is a 62% chance of the El Niño phenomenon developing in the Northern Hemisphere during May-July, with a strong likelihood toward the end of the year.
The CPC warns that this could compound risks to crops across the globe. The El Niño pattern involves a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific and can cause crop damage, flash floods or fires.
However, the CPC also predicts that neutral conditions will prevail through spring.
Fitch Solutions predicts that a transition to El Niño in the second half of 2023 would weigh on rice yields across Southeast Asia, Mainland China, and both southern and eastern India.
Cereal and oilseed crops across Asia are expected to face hot and dry weather, threatening supplies and raising concerns over food inflation. The Japan weather bureau has also predicted a 60% chance of an El Niño pattern during summer.
Despite the potential risks to crops, the phenomenon could benefit some regions in the near term. Argentina, which is currently experiencing drought conditions, could see improved weather, and it could also boost yields for US cotton farmers who were forced to abandon a significant portion of cropland in 2022 due to a crippling drought.
Additionally, El Niño is expected to dampen the storm outlook during the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.