Scientists are warning of the potential for a ‘super El Niño’ later this year, which could have devastating effects worldwide.
Possible ‘super El Niño’ forecasted
Previous El Niño events have been linked to floods, landslides, droughts, failed monsoons, and outbreaks of disease like cholera and dengue fever. While cautioning that early predictions don’t always materialize, experts note that there have been only three extreme El Niños since the 1950s, including the strongest one this century from 2015 to 2016.
A new update from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology suggests that the phenomenon may be characterized by exceptionally high temperatures in the central Pacific region near the equator, indicating the possibility of a ‘super El Niño’ towards the end of the year.
Over time, El Niño years have coincided with the warmest years on record, with the highest temperatures on record occurring during the El Niño year of 2016. Consequently, El Niño has been linked to droughts and increases in temperature, leading to could exacerbate the effects of global warming.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, all seven existing international climate models, including those from the UK, Japan and US weather agencies, indicate that sea surface temperatures will exceed the El Niño threshold in August.
It is worth noting that El Niño occurs every two to seven years and implies an increase in the temperature of the equatorial Pacific Ocean up to 3°C more than normal, causing alterations in weather patterns around the world. El Niño is usually followed by La Niña, which implies temperatures that fall below the usual range in the Pacific, and vice versa.
Most of the models, that is, six out of seven, suggest that the El Niño thresholds will be exceeded or reached in July. A super Niño of this nature implies a temperature increase of more than 2°C, with some models predicting such an increase for October of this year.
El Niño Forecast and Consequences
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecast that from July, temperatures may rise beyond the El Niño threshold, with an average 1.6°C rise in equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures for September, based on an analysis of seven climatic models.
However, scientists caution that long-term forecasts like these made beyond the fall may be less accurate.
Catherine Ganter, a climatologist with the Bureau, cautions that ‘it’s a difficult time of year to forecast, but we see consistency in international climate models of warming toward El Niño levels.’
The Bureau indicates a 50% probability that the El Niño phenomenon will occur by the end of 2023, although its intensity is difficult to predict at present.
El Niño Predictions: caution advised
Some scientists consider a 1972 to 1973 El Niño an extreme event as well. Dr. Agus Santoso of the University of New South Wales cautions that while predictions currently favor an El Niño, it’s uncertain whether it will be weak or strong. More confidence in the models is expected by June.
In the meantime, scientists warn that preparations should be made for the possibility of extreme weather events and disease outbreaks associated with El Niño.
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