Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

El Niño is coming—and it’s going to be bad

By Cullen Hendrix

18 Aug 2023 · 8 min read

informed Summary

  1. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a moderate-to-strong El Niño season to continue through February 2024. This could have significant implications, including reducing harvests for key crops, increasing disease burden, impacting economic prospects for developing and middle-income countries, and increasing the risk of armed conflict in certain regions.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now forecasting a moderate-to-strong El Niño season to continue through February 2024. The forecast itself mostly piques the interests of meteorologists, oceanographers, fishers, and the global network of food commodity traders and crop insurers whose fortunes live and die in the technical arcana of the weather report.

But this forecast has vast implications: Even a typical El Niño can reduce harvests for important crops, increase the disease burden, hammer developing and middle-income countries’ economic prospects, increase armed conflict risk in the tropics, and fuel maritime conflict and territorial ambitions in the East and South China Seas.

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