In summary, El Niño occurs when the equatorial pacific warms due to a weakening of trade winds, triggering an atmospheric reaction that we may experience as unusual, strong, and at times catastrophic weather.
While agricultural news and other weather-focused sources have been talking about the current El Niño phenomenon for awhile, it has hit mainstream US media outlets somewhat recently, party because the US hasn't yet seen much of an impact. Nevertheless, sources have wasted no time in describing the current phenomenon as a "Godzilla" or "Super" El Niño.
What we're seeing now has by some accounts been projected to out-perform the brutal 1997-98 El Niño that resulted in floods, fires, droughts, killed 30,000 people, and caused around $100 billion in damage.
In Latin America, central concerns already coming to fruition are drought and heavy rainfall. In Peru, unusual amounts of rain on the coast, freezing temperatures in the highlands, and drought in the south are all expected outcomes.
Meanwhile, poor families across the globe, many of whom already contend with food shortages, are expected to face increased insecurity and hunger as a result of El Niño induced drought. Marketwatch reports that tens of thousands of people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are already confronted with ongoing drought conditions that have caused widespread hunger, despite recent rain.
Colombia has seen low rainfall, and is now dealing with water deficits of up to 60%. This has diminished crop quality, leading to widespread losses, and pushed 9 of Colombia's 32 departments into a state of emergency.
Leading to extreme temperatures and forest fires, the conditions are expected to become dire in January 2016 as the dry season begins, and persist until March 2016. El Niño has been predicted to hit its peak globally between November 2015 and January 2016.
The Bogota Post reports that the drought is the worst in Colombia's history, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated that the drought had been upgraded from 'moderate' to 'strong'. After a summit focused on El Niño, he commented on the importance of saving water.
The publication reports that in Huila, the situation is dire. 15,103 hectares of agricultural land has already been affected, causing massive losses in coffee, corn, rice and livestock sectors. In Tolima, aid is needed in support of 25,000 families affected by El Niño. In Risaralda, flower production has fallen by 60%. In Caldas, coffee crops are starkly affected.