As El Niño is expected to persist into the winter, all eyes are on 2024. If typical climate conditions prevail, the high temperatures observed in 2023 could get even hotter next year.

Climate meteorologists have little doubt that 2023 will surpass 2016 as the warmest year on record worldwide.

As we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, our planet keeps warming. But this year, a confluence of events appears to have led to an increase in temperatures even higher than expected.

One of these phenomena is El Niño, a natural and cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean that heats the atmosphere above it, which can raise global temperatures and alter weather patterns worldwide.

However, experts say that El Niño has played a minor role in the temperature rise in 2023 so far. Its significant impact is yet to come.

"Typically, the following year is the warmest," said Tom Di Liberto, a climate scientist and public engagement specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"El Niño usually peaks around this time of year, at the beginning of the new year, and usually ends sometime in the spring... We'll see if that's the case."

To declare an El Niño event, NOAA requires a specific part of the Pacific Ocean called Niño 3.4 to be at least 0.5°C warmer than the seasonal average for three consecutive months, with the expectation that such temperatures will persist for five consecutive three-month periods.

This year, the first three-month period was from April to June. The fifth period will be from August to October. (The monthly diagnostic report is due out in the second week of November.)

However, no two El Niño events are exactly the same, and sometimes the temperature in the region can rise by 1.5°C or more, which is considered "strong."

And it seems that this is the path we are on.

"I think the odds of this event being strong are generally in the 75% to 85% range," Di Liberto said.

He added that the intensification of El Niño does not necessarily mean that the consequences will be stronger. Instead, we will see consequences most closely associated with these events, one of which is the potential jump in global temperatures in 2024.

"Ridiculously Large Anomalies" The last strong El Niño event occurred in 2015-2016. In the summer of 2015, ocean temperatures began to rise above average by 1.5°C, eventually reaching 2.6°C, but it was the following year that broke global temperature records.

So, if this year is set to be the hottest and the trend continues, could 2024 be even hotter?

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that next year is likely to be another record-breaker but not necessarily surpass 2023, mainly because there were other factors that exceeded expectations and it's unclear whether they will persist.

"I think there are five distinct things that are pushing you in that [warming] direction, which is why we're seeing these ridiculously large anomalies," he said.

These five things include changes in Antarctica (which are currently less understood), the absence of maritime transport clouds that would otherwise reflect solar radiation back into space, record ocean temperatures, lingering effects from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano, and ultimately, El Niño.

Schmidt said that while any one of them might affect temperatures by about a tenth of a degree, the combination of all five could be the reason why the planet is exceptionally warm this year.

Even if 2024 doesn't surpass 2023, Schmidt said, that's not necessarily how we should look at it.

"We can't just think of it as jumps. Like, 'Oh, what year is coming up?'" he said.

"It should be, 'Why are we seeing so many records?'"

"This tells us that something is happening, and that something won't go away until we change society and what we're doing to the atmosphere."

Meanwhile, in Canada Even if El Niño doesn't make 2024 a record year, its effects are likely to still be felt in Canada.

Typically, El Niño brings drier and warmer weather to the West Coast, which is less than ideal for the region after a record wildfire season this year, Di Liberto said.

"If you have hotter conditions and less precipitation, it leads to drought or drier conditions, and then all you need is a spark," he said. "And then those wildfires can just start raging."

But there are no guarantees that this will happen, he noted, adding that the consequences of El Niño will never be as bad as the worst scenarios people tend to imagine.

"I always like to tell people: that image will never be true. That has never, ever happened in world history."