El Niño: Spike in Sea Temperatures Could Cause Droughts, Floods

Monday, 05 May 2014 03:00 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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El Niño may make this summer hellish for some regions of the world prone to drought or flood as scientists observe a rise in Pacific Ocean temperatures this spring.

According to The Daily Mail, "El Niño refers to a set of conditions when the surface of the sea in an area along the Equator in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean becomes hotter than usual ... adding huge amounts of heat and moisture into the atmosphere."

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The pattern of El Niño peaks roughly every 20 years. However, some climate scientists say this cycle could shrink to as little as 10 years.

Dr. Wenju Cai, a climate expert at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, said the recent rise in Pacific temperatures and subsequent movement of warm water eastward "has lots of characteristics [consistent] with a strong El Niño."

"A strong El Niño appears early and we have seen this event over the last couple of months, which is unusual," he told the Daily Mail. "The wind that has caused the warming is quite large and there is what we call the pre-conditioned effects, where you must have a lot of heat already in the system to have a big El Niño event."

The U.N. World Meteorological Organization said on April 15 that it was still too early to tell how strong the El Niño might be, or exactly when it will develop, but Australia's Bureau of Meteorology pegged its likelihood at roughly 70 percent.

On Sunday, Philippines Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government has been preparing since January for severe weather.

"Food supply is the main priority of the Department of Agriculture. Under the 2015 budget, there are concrete programs to ensure food supply in case of calamities or disasters such as [crop] diversification," he told local radio station ABS-CBN News. He also said there would be no need for worrying about water rationing.

China’s Yangtze River flooded catastrophically in 1997 during what was deemed the worst El Niño in modern times, killing more than 1,500 people. The weather phenomenon disrupted the production of key agricultural products across Asia and Australia, causing food shortages, and in total cost the world $35 to $45 billion in damages.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology is expected to release an updated forecast regarding El Niño on Tuesday.

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