Just The Facts

The Return of a Strong El Niño

The weather phenomenon has made itself felt all across the globe in 2015.

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Takeaways


  • El Niño is an irregular equatorial and tropical wind and sea phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The 2015 El Niño is so strong that it has been felt heavily as far away as Africa.
  • It is uncertain whether or not global warming is likely to intensify El Niño or increase its frequency.

1. The 2015 El Niño episode is projected to be one of the worst in the modern era. El Niño is an irregular equatorial and tropical wind and sea phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that scrambles normal weather patterns around the world.

2. El Niño causes the overall atmosphere to pick up heat from unusual points of the Earth’s surface and shift weather events to new places.

3. The effects diminish with distance from the origin, but it can still be felt to some extent around the world. Most 2015 effects so far have occurred in Latin America, the Caribbean, Oceania, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

4. In North America, El Niño has produced dangerous rain bursts and flash flooding. Authorities have warned drivers to be careful of lethal winter mudslides and floods on the highways, especially in the southwest.

5. El Niño-related storm activity in southern California has somewhat eased drought conditions and clear lingering dangerous air pollution – the exact opposite of what many world regions are experiencing.

6. El Niño may help explain the relatively mild winter in North America so far. However, that could also result from man-made global warming. The scientific community has not yet reached a consensus on whether or not global warming is likely to intensify El Niño or increase its frequency.

7. Unlike the current warming trend, El Niño events have occurred irregularly, but frequently, for at least many thousands of years. The effect is often weak, however, unlike the “strong” El Niño in 2015.

8. The 2015 event is so strong that it has been felt heavily as far away as Africa. In 2015, so far, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe have experienced severe drought leading to crop failure and food shortages. At least eight million people in those countries are either on food aid or are at risk of hunger as a direct result.

9. South Africa, the largest and most developed economy in the affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa, has seen severe drought put serious strain on water reserves across the country affecting agriculture, industry and drinking supply.

Sources: The Globalist Research Center, NOAA, various news media

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