Climate Change

A ‘Godzilla’ El Niño to disrupt the world in 2016

The third strongest such weather event in recorded history will affect global food security and will aggravate the refugee situation

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 31 December 2015

The latest satellite image of Pacific sea surface heights from Jason-2 (right) differs slightly from one 18 years ago from TOPEX/Poseidon (left). In Dec. 1997, sea surface height was more intense and peaked in November. This year the area of high sea levels is less intense but considerably broader. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The devastating floods in US and the sweeping droughts in Africa could be the precursors to what El Niño will bring in 2016.

Meteorologists have already predicted that the developing weather event is turning out to be the third strongest in recorded history. There are already terms like “Godzilla” and “Super” affixed to the El Niño that will take severe form by February-March 2016. "By some measures this has already been the strongest El Nino on record, it depends on exactly how you measure it," told Nick Klingaman from the University of Reading to BBC.

The weather even known for increasing global temperature and disturbing weather patterns will impact the south-east Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America the most in the next six months. Recently the 2015 was recorded as the world’s warmest year and it being attributed to the El Niño.

Many tropical countries have already experienced deficit rainfall in the range of 20-30 per cent. Indonesia and India are under a spell of severe drought. Brazil and Australia also reported deficit rainfall.

According to release of NASA on December 30, the current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission.

The latest Jason-2 image shows that the current El Niño  now is similar to that of 1997-98 which was the last severe such weather event in recorded history.

NASA has also warned that the US will feel its impacts in the next few months.  

US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration favour has said that El Niño will result in several months of relatively cool and wet conditions across the southern United States, and relatively warm and dry conditions over the northern United States.
 
A huge challenge for the world

“The last big El Niño was 1997–1998. The planet has changed a lot in 15 years. We have had years of record Arctic sea ice minimum. We have lost a massive area of northern hemisphere snow cover, probably by more than 1 million square km in the past 15 years. We are working on a different planet and we fully do not understand the new patterns emerging. This is a new planet. Will the two patterns reinforce each other or cancel each other? We have no precedent. Climate change is increasingly going to put us in this situation. We don’t have a previous event like this,” said David Carlson, Director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.

Aid agencies are already in huddle over the devastating impacts of this disruption in weather.  International aid agency like Oxfam have already estimated that food insecurity will grip Africa and there will be surge in refugees as extreme weather will displace large number of people in vulnerable continents like Africa.

According to Oxfam, which terms it as the “Super El Niño”, “The effects of a super El Nino are set to put the world’s humanitarian system under an unprecedented level of strain in 2016, as it already struggles to cope with the fallout from conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere."

Oxfam estimates the El Nino weather system could leave tens of millions of people facing hunger, water shortages and disease in 2016 if there is no early action.

In a few countries, according to Oxfam, situations are already serious. For instance, in Ethiopia 10.2 million people are in urgent need of aids costing £1billion due to the drought fuelled by El Niño.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.