Climate change is influencing traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña events as well as their impacts
There is a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño developing by the end of this year, according to the latest update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “Most dynamical and statistical forecast models suggest an imminent warming of the tropical Pacific, reaching a weak El Niño level by the fourth quarter of the year. The chance of El Niño is about 70%, with uncertain strength, as model predictions range from ENSO-neutral to a moderate strength El Niño,” reads the outlook released by WMO on September 10.
WMO’s outlook is based on forecast models and expert interpretation from around the world.
The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. It has a major influence on weather patterns over many parts of the world.
“Climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña events as well as their impacts. 2018 started out with a weak La Niña event but its cooling effect was not enough to reduce the overall warming trend which means that this year is on track to be one of the warmest on record,” media quoted WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas saying.
While WMO does not expect El Niño to be as powerful as that of 2015-2016, it will still have a considerable impact.
Above-normal surface temperature is forecast in almost entire Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America, Africa and much of coastal South America. Similarly, below-normal precipitation is expected in Central America and the Caribbean, parts of southern Asia, eastern Asia and the Pacific. That could mean suppressed southwest monsoon in Indian subcontinent in 2019.
Increased frequency of El Niño raises climate change question
While El Niño occurs every five to seven years, this forecast, if it comes true, would mean two such events occurring within a span of two years. It hints at the influence of climate change.
"Climate change is influencing the traditional dynamics of El Niño and La Niña events as well as their impacts," Taalas told media. "2018 started out with a weak La Niña event but its cooling effect was not enough to reduce the overall warming trend which means that this year is on track to be one of the warmest on record," he concluded.
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