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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Glenn McGregor

McGregor, G.R. & Ebi, K. (2018). El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Health: An Overview for Climate and Health Researchers. Atmosphere 9(7): 282.

Author(s) from Durham


The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an important mode of climatic variability that exerts a discernible impact on ecosystems and society through alterations in climate patterns. For this reason, ENSO has attracted much interest in the climate and health science community, with many analysts investigating ENSO health links through considering the degree of dependency of the incidence of a range of climate diseases on the occurrence of El Niño events. Because of the mounting interest in the relationship between ENSO as a major mode of climatic variability and health, this paper presents an overview of the basic characteristics of the ENSO phenomenon and its climate impacts, discusses the use of ENSO indices in climate and health research, and outlines the present understanding of ENSO health associations. Also touched upon are ENSO-based seasonal health forecasting and the possible impacts of climate change on ENSO and the implications this holds for future assessments of ENSO health associations. The review concludes that there is still some way to go before a thorough understanding of the association between ENSO and health is achieved, with a need to move beyond analyses undertaken through a purely statistical lens, with due acknowledgement that ENSO is a complex non-canonical phenomenon, and that simple ENSO health associations should not be expected.