El Niño

At a Glance

 60 M

people affected globally




received to date


What is El Niño?

El Niño is a warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every two to seven years. During an El Niño event, sea surface temperatures across the Pacific can warm by 1–3°F or more for anything between a few months to a year or two. El Niño impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, more extremes becoming the norm. More>>

What is the humanitarian impact of El Niño?

The recent El Niño has affected more than 60 million people, impacting lives and livelihoods, reversing hard-won development gains, threatening human security and endangering achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 
Many already-vulnerable groups are among those worst affected – including women, children, people with disabilities, people living with HIV and AIDS and the urban and rural poor. They must be the focus of our combined efforts to respond to this emergency, and to change our approach to future climate threats. 
Although this El Niño climate event has officially concluded the danger hasn't passed. Food insecurity linked to crop failure and drought is not expected to peak until well into 2017 – and its painful economic, social and human legacy could ripple through generations if we do not take all necessary measures to prevent further suffering.  
El Niño-affected communities need immediate and intensified assistance that takes into account long-term impacts. Funds are urgently being sought to alleviate suffering and provide life-saving assistance. The total amount needed by governments, aid agencies and partners to address urgent El Niño-linked humanitarian needs globally stands at USD $5 billion. To date, USD $1.9 billion has been raised, leaving a funding gap of USD $3.1 billion. 
Communities are telling us that El Niño, La Niña and other climate events should not just be about humanitarian response, the focus should also be on risk-informed development that prioritises prevention, mitigation and preparedness. All the evidence tells that this type of early action works, and that it provides exponential returns in terms of human dignity, safety and wellbeing, as well as countries’ overall economic and social development. Every dollar invested in emergency preparedness saves seven dollars that would otherwise be spent on emergency response.
We have no time to waste. It is likely that the next climate-linked humanitarian emergency will be upon us even before communities have recovered from El Niño. Our development and humanitarian systems need to be deeply integrated, climate-proofed and fit for purpose. If we fail to act now we will be letting down our most vulnerable communities and undermining the foundation principle of the Sustainable Development Goals – that no one will be left behind. 

What is La Niña?

The term La Niña typically refers to atmospheric as well as oceanic patterns, as with El Niño. It often lasts longer than El Niño, sometimes persisting or recurring for two or more years. The term El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, refers to the combination of atmospheric and oceanic effects associated with both El Niño and La Niña. As counterpart to El Niño, La Niña is defined as cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures (SST) in the central and eastern tropical parts of the Pacific Ocean. More>>

In Depth