Wednesday, 9 April 2014

El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster

The US websites Slate and Mother Jones have used evidence from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to publicise, as the Owl did earlier this week, the increasing likelihood of an El Niño developing later this year. In a rather more dramatic fashion than the Owl they warn to ”expect soaring global food prices, monsoons in India, drought in Indonesia, and bush fires in Australia.”
The author Eric Holthaus writes:
As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. The 1997-98 super El Niño was enough to boost global temperatures by nearly a quarter of a degree Celsius. If that scale of warming happens again, the world could approach a 1ºC departure from pre-industrial times as early as next year. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, that’s around the highest that temperatures have ever been since human civilization began.
Indeed, even the forecast is already having an effect: An index of global food prices reached a 10-month high in March, blamed in part on shortages an El Niño may exacerbate. Here’s what else we could expect:
  • A severe drought continues to rage in and around Indonesia, which an El Niño would likely worsen.
  • Australia’s ongoing battles with bush fires may be intensified once its dry season resumes later this year.
But perhaps the strangest impact so far has been in India, where monsoon forecasting is at the heart of national politics. The meteorology department there has accused US weather forecasters of “spreading rumors” and colluding to ruin the Indian stock market by forecasting a return of El Niño.
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