Diatoms play crucial functions in trophic structure and biogeochemical cycles. Due to poleward warming, there has been a substantial decrease in diatom biomass, especially in Antarctic regions that experience strong physical changes. Here we analyze the phytoplankton contents of water samples collected in the spring/summer of 2015/2016 off the North Antarctic Peninsula during the extreme El Niño event and compare them with corresponding satellite chlorophyll-a data. The results suggest a close link between large diatom blooms, upper ocean physical structures and sea ice cover, as a consequence of the El Niño effects. We observed massive concentrations (up to 40 mg m–3 of in situ chlorophyll-a) of diatoms coupled with substantially colder atmospheric and oceanic temperatures and high mean salinity values associated with a lower input of meltwater. We hypothesize that increased meltwater concentration due to continued atmospheric and oceanic warming trends will lead to diatom blooms becoming more episodic and spatially/temporally restricted.