After the Announcement of the End of El Nino: Will Unusual Weather Changes Continue?

Nuha Yousef | a month ago

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared the conclusion of the El Nino event, a climatic occurrence that has been responsible for a series of extreme and atypical weather patterns globally.

This announcement comes on the heels of a significant decline in the Pacific Ocean’s water temperatures.

Forecasting centers across the globe, under the aegis of the WMO, now anticipate a 50% likelihood of transitioning to neutral weather conditions or the advent of La Nina from June to August 2024.

This marks the cessation of El Nino’s influence, which began in 2020 and reached its zenith in 2023.

El Nino Phenomenon

El Nino is characterized by a reduction in the upwelling of cold water near South America, leading to elevated sea surface temperatures across the Pacific Ocean.

This, in turn, raises atmospheric temperatures and results in the formation of “heat domes.”

These domes are created by high atmospheric pressure in the upper atmosphere, trapping warm air from the seas and oceans below and giving rise to intense heat waves.

The WMO had previously alerted, in its July 2023 report, to the Northern Hemisphere being engulfed by extreme weather conditions during that summer.

Regions including North Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, and the southern United States were particularly affected by heat domes.

John Nairn, a senior advisor on extreme heat at the WMO, had informed reporters that the incidence of concurrent heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere has seen a sixfold increase since the 1980s, with no signs of this trend abating.

He emphasized the escalating intensity of these events and the need for global preparedness for more severe heat waves.

In its latest statement, the WMO indicated that following the end of El Nino, the probability of La Nina occurring between July and September is as high as 60%, with the likelihood increasing to 70% from August to November. The chances of El Nino re-emerging during this period are minimal.

El Nino and La Nina are part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which is responsible for the most significant natural fluctuations in the climate system on both seasonal and annual scales.

La Nina represents the cycle’s cold phase, resulting in atmospheric cooling.

Coe Barrett, Deputy Secretary-General of the WMO, stated that the termination of El Nino does not signify an end to long-term climate change.

The Earth will continue to experience warming due to greenhouse gases, and exceptionally high sea surface temperatures will remain a significant factor in climate dynamics in the forthcoming months.

El Nino and La Nina events typically occur in cycles ranging from two to seven years and can last from nine to twelve months, though they may persist for several years at a time.

Meteorological Events

In recent years, the El Nino weather pattern has been a driving force behind a series of severe and atypical meteorological events.

The summer of 2023 marked the pinnacle of these conditions, with a formidable heat dome over the Mediterranean spawning a lethal heatwave, dubbed “Kharon,” that scorched southern Europe.

Throughout the Mediterranean region, nations grappled with soaring temperatures.

Athens saw mercury levels nearing a scorching 48 degrees Celsius, while Rome experienced temperatures surpassing 42 degrees Celsius in July of the same year.

The International Meteorological Agency issued a stark warning about the heightened risk of nocturnal heat-induced heart attacks and fatalities.

John Nairn, the agency’s senior advisor on extreme heat, highlighted the particular peril of elevated nighttime temperatures, which prevent the human body from recuperating from the relentless heat, thereby escalating the likelihood of heart-related ailments and deaths.

A United Nations report revealed that the summer of 2022 witnessed an additional 60,000 deaths across Europe due to the sweltering heat, despite the implementation of robust early warning systems and health initiatives.

The cessation of the El Nino cycle and the onset of its cooler counterpart, La Nina, have prompted speculation about a potential respite from these harsh weather phenomena.

Addressing these concerns, environmental expert Zaher Hashem, in media statements, acknowledged the significant but transient impact of El Nino on altering weather patterns and triggering extreme climatic conditions.

However, he emphasized that this warming is not anticipated to derail the global objective of capping this century’s temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius, with an aspirational target of 1.5 degrees.

Hashem concluded with a cautionary note, stating that unless there is a concerted effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions — the primary culprits of climate change — the adverse effects and extreme weather events are likely to persist, regardless of a shift to neutral or La Nina conditions.

Southern Dryness

In the early months of 2024, Southern Africa’s agricultural heartlands were gripped by a severe drought, with countries like Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe experiencing one of the driest seasons in recent memory.

The parched earth and withering crops signaled an impending food crisis that could ripple through the region.

In the Ngabu area of southern Malawi, farmer Felix Phikamiso lamented the loss of his entire maize crop to the relentless sun, a disaster compounded by the previous year’s floods from Cyclone Freddy.

The late arrival of rains in March offered no reprieve for his scorched fields.

“To replant now seems futile,” Phikamiso shared with Dialogue Earth, reflecting a sentiment of despair that has become all too common among his peers.

To the northwest, in Zambia’s Eastern province, Janet Mwale’s efforts to salvage her maize crop in Chipwaira village proved in vain.

Despite her best attempts with fertilizers, the relentless dry spell left her and her community facing an uncertain future.

“We are cornered by this drought,” Mwale confided to Dialogue Earth. “Farming is our lifeblood, and without it, we’re unsure how we will survive.”

The drought’s origins trace back to El Nino, a cyclical climatic event characterized by elevated Pacific Ocean temperatures that disrupt global weather patterns, including Southern Africa’s rainfall.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network’s report from November 2023 had already painted a bleak picture, predicting that El Nino would lead to intense heat and reduced rainfall, affecting harvests and food security well into 2025.