El Niño warming weather has begun

  • By Matt McGrath
  • Environment reporter

image source, Getty Images

A natural weather event known as El Niño has begun in the Pacific Ocean, potentially adding heat to a planet already warming due to climate change.

American scientists have confirmed that the El Niño phenomenon has begun. Experts say that will likely make 2024 the hottest year in the world.

They fear this will help push the world beyond a 1.5°C warming phase.

It will also affect global weather, which could lead to drought in Australia, more rain in the southern United States, and a weakening of the monsoon in India.

The event will likely continue until next spring, after which its effects will subside.

For months, researchers had been increasingly confident that an El Niño was about to set in in the Pacific Ocean.

said Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasts at the UK Met Office.

“A new global temperature record next year is certainly reasonable. It depends on how big the El Niño is – a big El Niño event at the end of this year gives a big chance that we will have a new record, which is the global temperature in 2024.” “

This natural phenomenon is the strongest fluctuation in the climate system anywhere on Earth.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, as it is properly called, has three different phases: hot, cold, or neutral.

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Workers in Peru clean up after a storm as El Niño affects the coast

Record warm years, including 2016, the hottest year in the world, usually occur a year after a strong El Niño event.

Weather agencies around the world use different criteria to decide when this hot phase is upon us.

For scientists in the US, their definition requires that the ocean temperature should be 0.5°C warmer than normal for a month, the atmosphere must be seen to respond to this heat and there must be evidence of the event continuing.

These conditions were met in May. “El Niño conditions exist,” the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.

“This is a very weak signal. But we think we are starting to see these conditions and they will continue to increase,” NOAA scientist Michelle Laureux said.

“Our weekly value was actually 0.8C last week, which is stronger than that.”

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Heat and drought are likely to hit parts of Asia as a result of the El Niño phenomenon

The researchers believe that this event has an 84% chance of passing moderate strength by the end of this year.

They also say there is a one in four chance that the event will exceed 2 degrees Celsius at its peak, entering an El Niño Super.

The effects of El Niño will likely be delayed for a few months but will be felt all over the world.

If anything were to be attempted, there would be a significant human and economic cost to this upcoming weather event.

The powerful El Niño in 1997-1998 cost more than $5 trillion with about 23,000 deaths from storms and floods.

There is also a strong possibility that this year’s edition will push 2024 past 2016 as the hottest year in the world.

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Smoke from wildfires is having a major impact on New York

Global temperatures currently hover around 1.1°C above the 1850-1900 average.

But an El Niño event could add as much as 0.2°C to that number, pushing the world into uncharted temperature territory, and close to breaking the symbolic 1.5°C protection barrier, a key component of the Paris climate agreement.

Researchers recently said that temporarily breaking that limit was more likely than not in the next few years.

“It’s actually possible that we’ll see average global temperatures that might become a normal thing in five to 10 years, so it gives us that kind of gateway about the future.” said Michelle Lauroux.

“And I think that’s why it’s alarming to some people, because these are our new thresholds. And El Niño provides an acceleration of that.”

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