Climate Crisis and the Environment

The El Niño Prediction: What is it and what does it mean for us this winter?

The El Niño is a natural occurrence that happens irregularly every few years. It involves fluctuating temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, usually as a result of warmer water temperatures. The result of this is varying levels of change in weather across the globe. The effects of El Niño can be particularly detrimental to countries that depend on agricultural production for survival.

 What does The World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) predict for 2018/2019?

The last El Niño occurred in 2015/2016 and now the World Meteorological Organisation has predicted a 70% possibility of an El Nino from between December 2018 and February 2019. The WMO are expecting above average rainfall across North America, portions of Africa, southeast Europe and Southwest Asia, and droughts are expected across East Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.

“El Niño can be particularly detrimental to countries that depend on agricultural production”

The ability to predict the pattern of the El Niño is vital for countries to prepare for it. The El Niño can last up to several months often reducing harvest and agricultural activities. This puts a huge strain on agriculture-based economies. As a result, countries often see inflation in food prices and general commodities. Despite the prediction that the coming El Niño will be weaker than the El Niño of 2015/16, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) are following WMO’s updates and preparing aid for countries that may require it.

Does climate change effect the El Nino?

Although the El Niño is a natural phenomenon, scientists have recently begun to examine the role of climate change in its patterns. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas has stated that “Climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña events as well as their impacts.”

This year has seen the highest ocean temperatures on record in the last one-hundred years and the La Niña (El Niño’s cooling counterpart) that occurred early on in 2018 was not cold enough to counteract the impact of a generally warming oceans.

“countries often see inflation in food prices and general commodities”

In this case global warming is not only changing sea-levels, melting ice-caps and heating our ocean’s but magnifying the impacts of the El Niño. Due to climate change we will see intensified patterns and effects of this natural cycle.

However, the relationship between the El Niño and global warming is not irreversible and considerable continued efforts taken across the globe to reduce climate change could limit the destruction of the El Niño.

Lois Barton

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Featured image courtesy of Catherine Singleton via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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