A massive El Nino weather event is occurring that could bring extreme weather conditions to parts of the globe.
According to the the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the 2015 El Nino is the strongest ever recorded, smashing the previous record from 1997-8.
El Nino’s can cause rainfall, floods, mudslides, droughts, fires and cyclones. Due to global warming, this years event could be more devastating than before. Ocean current temperatures in the Pacific are significantly higher than normal and the 2015 El Nino is already causing havoc on weather. It is building up to be the worst ever on record with aftermath weather anomalies to follow.
New Scientist reports:
The 1997-8 El Niño killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage as floods, droughts, fires, cyclones and mudslides ravaged the world.
Now the current El Niño has surpassed the 1997-8 El Niño on a key measure, according to the latest figures released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.
A key measure of its intensity is the warmth of water in the central Pacific. In 1997, at its peak on 26 November, it was 2.8 °C above average. According to the latest measurements, it reached 2.8 °C on 4 November this year, and went on to hit 3.1 °C on 18 November – the highest temperatures ever seen in this region.
“The El Niño community is closely watching the evolution [of this El Niño] and whether the current event will surpass the 1997-8 event,” says Axel Timmerman at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “Monthly and weekly central Pacific temperature anomalies clearly show that this current event has surpassed it.”
The temperatures in the central Pacific have the biggest impact on the global atmospheric circulation, and therefore the biggest impacts on global weather, says Timmerman, who has been warning that this El Niño is likely to be a record-breaker.
The event hasn’t broken temperature records across the entire eastern Pacific, but in the central eastern Pacific. “It’s shifted into an area where most likely the atmosphere will respond even more,” Timmerman says.
Timmerman and others showed in 2013 that El Niños have been stronger in the last few decades than in any period over the past four centuries. It is unknown whether that’s because of climate change, but Timmerman and colleagues have also shown that extreme impacts from El Niño’s will double in frequency this century as a result of climate change.
In similar findings, Scott Power at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia and colleagues showed that climate change will amplify the way that El Niño redistributes rainfall, making droughts and floods worse.
El Niño has been implicated in a host of extreme weather events across the globe. Combined with global warming, it’s partly responsible for 2015 being the hottest year on record. In India, more than 2000 people died in a heatwave caused by a delayed monsoon – an effect of El Niño.
Now the region is experiencing unusually heavy rains as the monsoon has finally arrived – also an expected impact of El Niño. “Southern India is having a lot of rain as it goes into winter, having come out of the dry monsoon. This is only so during extreme El Niño, so it is a confirmation that the El Niño is huge,” says Wenju Cai at Australia’s government scientific research body, CSIRO in Melbourne.
El Niño is also probably making record-breaking illegal fires in Indonesia worse, by reducing rainfall there.
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