It seems just about everywhere in the world is experiencing unnaturally sweltering heat waves this summer. Could this be a result of global warming? Or perhaps this isn’t such an irregular occurrence after all.
El Niño is the large stream of warm ocean water that develops in the Pacific ocean. It is common for El Niño to show up on average every 2-7 years, and lasts between nine months to two years on average. What is most significant, though, is that this year El Niño has emerged again and is proving to be one of the strongest ever recorded.
What is troubling for many climate change scientists is that the emergence of a strong El Niño can have significant effects on weather conditions. This is what is causing extreme heat in many areas; as high as 51°C in some parts of India. Drastic fluctuations in temperature can have a negative impact on crops and agriculture. In fact, the extreme weather caused by theEl Niño in 1876-77, gave rise to the most deadly famines of the 19th century. The 1876 famine alone killed 13 million people in northern China.
Such high temperatures can be very dangerous for humans and the environment but also can pose a potential for causing catastrophic disasters. A strong El Niño can raise air temperatures, which can cause storms when cold winds mix with hot air. The mixing of high and low-pressure air increase the chance of hurricane formation and tropical cyclones. The occurrence of such storms can cause devastation and destruction, resulting in millions of dollars in damages or human casualties.
Scientists have not yet reached a consensus on whether or not climate change has had, or will have, any influence on the occurrence, strength or duration of El Niños. But the emergence of increasingly strong El Niños defiantly raises the question as to the cause and effect relationship climate change has on the environment.
While the verdict is out, we all can still do our part to mitigate the impact we have on the environment. By switching to greener sources of energy and by making conscious decisions to take better care of our planet, we would be taking the proactively-safer road. Ultimately, isn’t that worth doing no matter what?