Sept. 10 (UPI) -- According to the World Meteorological Organization, there's a 70 percent chance of an El Niño weather event developing before the end of the year.
The El Niño Southern Oscillation, ENSO, describes a periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures. The irregular variability features two main patterns: a warming pattern, El Niño, and a cooling pattern, La Niña.
The last El Niño surfaced in 2015 and 2016, but forecasters at WMO don't believe this year's event will be as intense as the last. In 2016, the hottest year in modern history, El Niño amplified global warming patterns, fueling warm weather around the globe.
"Climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña events as well as their impacts," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. "2018 started out with a weak La Niña event but its cooling effect was not enough to reduce the overall warming trend which means that this year is on track to be one of the warmest on record."
Previous research suggests the strength of the most recent La Niña event was minimized by residual heat left behind by the last ENSO event.
In the latest El Niño/La Niña update, WMO acknowledged an ENSO event doesn't necessarily supersede other local and regional climate drivers.
"Sea surface temperatures of the Indian Ocean, the southeastern Pacific Ocean and the tropical Atlantic Ocean are also known to influence the climate in the adjacent land areas," researchers wrote.
Recent studies have shown marine heat waves and elevated sea surface temperatures are increasingly common around the globe.
In addition to prolonged heat waves, the last ENSO event triggered severe droughts in Africa and flooding in South America. WMO forecasters hope the latest report will help at-risk regions mobilize resources to prepare for dangerous weather events.
"The advance prediction of this event will help save many lives and considerable economic losses," Taalas said.
Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offered a similar El Niño forecast, predicting a 60 percent chance of an ENSO event this fall and a 70 percent chance this winter.