Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event


Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event is a programme funded by NERC and the Department for International Development (DFID) which aims to advance our understanding of the impacts of the current El Niño in low and middle income countries, to increase preparedness and resilience to future events.

El Niño Announcement of opportunity: Research grants

Closing date: 18 Feb

19 Jan 2016

Proposals are invited for a new £4 million collaborative research programme on Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event.

El Niño is a prolonged warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and east-central Pacific that occurs irregularly at 3-6 year intervals. El Niño weakens the trade winds and alters the monsoon pattern which affects global weather patterns and typically results in drought conditions in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia and enhanced rainfall in Eastern Africa and South America.

The World Meteorological Organization is predicting that the current El Niño event will be one of the three strongest recorded since 1950[1] and it is having a significant effect on a number of low and middle income countries. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is estimating that 11 million children are at risk of hunger, disease and lack of water in Eastern and Southern Africa as a result of the El Niño[2]. The India Meteorological Department is reporting that India as a whole has suffered a rainfall deficit of 12-15% during the 2015 summer monsoon, with some regions experiencing a deficit of almost 50%[3]. Wildfires in Indonesia, exacerbated by the drought conditions, have resulted in hazardous air pollution levels across Southeast Asia.

El Niño forecasts, mitigation strategies and the humanitarian response during the event are all strongly informed by analyses of previous events. Hence more accurate and reliable information on this event (eg the scale of the floods and droughts and their effect on livelihoods, food security, ecosystem services, disease vectors, and key infrastructure) is needed to enable improvements in El Niño models and forecasts, and ultimately increase preparedness and resilience to future events. Studying the current El Niño is particularly important as it is an unusually strong event. The last major El Niño was in 1997-98 and since then there have been major advances in sensor networks, satellite measurements, modelling capacities and data analysis and assimilation techniques that can be applied to a major El Niño for the first time.

The aim of this research programme is address the need to have a better understanding of the impacts of the current El Niño event in low and middle income countries. To enable this aim to be achieved projects are expected to:

  • provide evidence of the impacts of the current El Niño event, particularly at the local and regional level
  • have the potential to contribute to increased resilience to El Niño events, and therefore to increased societal wellbeing and economic growth and
  • focus on the collection of data that is timely and urgent that cannot be supported through other funding routes.

  1. World Meteorological Organization El Niño update - external link -
  2. UNICEF El Niño press release - external link -
  3. India Meteorological Department: Current status of southwest monsoon 2015 and forecast - external link -


2016 - 2017

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current grant funding opportunities for this programme.


£4 million, 18-month research programme, joint NERC-DFID.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded applications - external link