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New data shows that 2022 was the fifth hottest year for Europe since records began.
But scientists are warning that 2023 could be even warmer, as a climate phenomenon called La Niña – which has been suppressing global temperatures – comes to an end.
La Niña is part of a climate phenomenon called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system.
It has two opposite states – El Niño and La Niña – both of which significantly alter weather patterns across the globe.
For the last few years, the world has been in successive La Niña periods, which have lowered temperatures and brought heavy rains to Canada and Australia.
Winds blowing along the Equator above the Pacific Ocean – from South America in the east towards Asia in the west – were stronger than normal.
These “trade winds” piled warm water off the coast of Asia, raising the sea surface level. In the east, near the Americas, cold water flowed upwards to the surface.
During El Niño the opposite happens – weaker trade winds mean the warm water spreads out back towards the Americas, and less cold water rises towards the surface.
The phenomenon was first observed by Peruvian fisherman back in the 1600s.
They noticed that warm waters seemed to peak near the Americas in December, and nicknamed the event “El Niño de Navidad”, Christ Child in Spanish.