Climate change will cause El Niños to be stronger, a new study suggests.
And in the future, continued warming over the western Pacific as a result of climate change promises conditions that will trigger more extreme El Niño events, according to study lead author Bin Wang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii.
That's important because past El Niños – especially strong ones – have wreaked havoc around the world.
For example, globally, the 1997-98 El Niño caused thousands of deaths from severe storms, heatwaves, floods and drought, costing $32 billion to $96 billion, according to a United Nations study.
In the United States, strong El Niños can cause extreme flooding in California.
"More frequent extreme El Niño events will induce profound socioeconomic consequences,” Wang warned in a statement.
Wang also said there have been three “super” El Niños, starting in 1982, 1997 and 2015, and they all began in the western Pacific. During each of those El Niños, the world broke new average temperature records.