Pacific Ocean: "El Niño" has arrived, several countries on alert

The Australian meteorological office announced on Tuesday, September 19, the formation of the El Niño weather phenomenon, generally associated with rising temperatures and severe droughts that can lead to devastating forest fires. Australia is expecting a "hotter than average" austral summer and fears wildfires. On Monday, Ecuador declared an orange alert due to the "imminent" arrival of El Niño, which could cause devastating rains.

In flooded streets of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, June 5, 2023. The El Niño phenomenon is causing significant and deadly rains in the country this year. AP - Cesar Munoz

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Concern is growing in the Pacific on the climate front. In July, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimated a 90% chance of the phenomenon forming in the second half of 2023 and warnings are multiplying.

Ecuador has pulled the signal on Monday by moving from yellow alert to orange alert due to the "imminent" arrival of the El Niño weather phenomenon. "This means that Ecuador is moving from a stage of prevention to a stage of preparation (...) To do this, we have secured multilateral funding of more than $500 million," President Guillermo Lasso said on social network X (formerly Twitter).

According to the Head of State, the funds obtained will be used to "deal with the road emergency, buy heavy machinery (...) and acquire 1,200 metres of temporary bridges." "The presence of the natural event is imminent and could coincide with the country's rainy season in the last quarter of the year," Risk Management Secretary Cristian Torres said in a presidential bulletin.

Ecuador has already suffered from the periodic warming of Pacific waters. El Niño brings torrential rains to the country, causing deadly floods and landslides. The government fears devastation this year similar to that of 1997 and 1998, in which nearly 300 people died, and losses amounted to about $3 billion.

Since the beginning of the year, the rains have already caused the death of a hundred people in Ecuador. And in neighboring Peru, El Niño is already making itself felt with intense rains, droughts and frosts that have held back the economy over the past three months.

In Ecuador, in Alausí, a landslide triggered by heavy rains left 65 dead and 10 missing, on March 27, 2023. AP - Dolores Ochoa

" READ ALSO The climatic phenomenon El Niño, arbiter of the next harvest?

Australia fears fires as devastating as three years ago

Australia, for its part, is expecting a suffocating austral summer. On Tuesday, Karl Braganza, a government forecaster, said an El Niño phenomenon has set in in the Pacific Ocean, coinciding with the unusual spring heatwave currently affecting the east of the country. According to him, El Niño will help warm the oceans, which have been experiencing record temperatures since April. "This summer will be warmer than average and certainly hotter than in the last three years," he warns.


The arrival of El Niño will dramatically increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records and triggering more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the oceans. " said in July the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas.

Australia faced violent fires between late 2019 and early 2020. The country fears the return of these large-scale fires at the end of 2023 with the El Niño phenomenon. SAEED KHAN / AFP

According to climate scientist Andrew King of the University of Melbourne, El Niño increases the risk of fires and droughts in parts of Australia: "The unusually warm weather we are currently seeing in southeastern Australia could portend extreme conditions that could multiply in the coming months.


The country fears fires as devastating as those of the austral summer 2019-2020. The spring heatwave sweeping across eastern Australia follows the warmest winter on record since records began in 1910.

(with agencies)

See alsoClimate: what effects and consequences of the El Niño phenomenon?

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  • Australia
  • Ecuador
  • Climate
  • Climate change
  • Natural disasters
  • Environment