El Nino


Reposted from Alternet

All of the impacts of El Niño are exacerbated by global warming.

A major El Niño is under way now. It already has substantially influenced weather patterns around the globe, but could have even bigger impacts this winter. There have been only two “super” El Niños until now: in 1982-83 and 1997-98. We are now experiencing a third “super” El Niño.

Every El Niño cycle is different. The effects from this year’s already include a record number of hurricanes/typhoons in the Pacific and intense wildfires in Indonesia.

In the United States over the next several months, El Niño is expected to cause heavy rains across the South, with the potential for coastal flooding in California, along with relatively mild and dry weather in the northern states. Global climate change, which, along with the El Niño, is making 2015 the warmest year on record, is likely to amplify these impacts.

What is El Niño?

El Niños are not uncommon. Every three to seven years or so, the surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean become extremely warm from the International Dateline to the west coast of South America. This process causes changes in the local and regional ecology, and is clearly linked with abnormal global climate patterns.

The Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) shows warm (red) and cold (blue) phases of abnormal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Photo Credit:
NCAR, Author provided
Click to enlarge.

Historically “El Niño” referred to the appearance of unusually warm water off the coast of Peru near Christmastime (Niño is Spanish and refers to “the boy Christ child”). Today it describes broader changes that occur across the Pacific basin.

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