Climate crisis: El Nino may cause rise in temperature, says WMO

New Delhi: A warming El Niño phenomenon could develop in the coming months after three consecutive years of La Nina, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, while warning of a possible rise in global temperatures this year.

El Niño is characterized by abnormally warm waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific. La Niña, in contrast, is defined by unusually cold water in the same region. This phenomenon together is called ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation). It is highly correlated with hot summers and weak monsoon rains in India.

La Niña, which began in September 2020 with a brief break in the boreal summer of 2021, typically has the opposite effect on weather and climate as El Niño. It is associated with frequent droughts in the Greater Horn of Africa and parts of South America, as well as above-average rainfall in Southeast Asia and Australasia.

WMO Secretary-General Peteri Taalas said, “If we enter an El Niño phase now, it is likely to lead to another jump in global temperatures…”

Talas said La Niña, the first triple dip of the 21st century, is finally coming to an end. “The cooling effect of La Niña put a temporary brake on rising global temperatures, even though the past eight-year period was one of the warmest on record.”

The WMO warning was followed by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday saying that most parts of India are likely to experience severe heat wave conditions from March to May.

The return of El Niño will be preceded by a period of ENSO-neutral conditions (90% probability) from March to May. According to model predictions and WMO experts’ assessment, the probability of conditions decreases slightly after May but remains high.

Long-range forecasts from June to August indicate a very high probability (55%) of El Niño developing. 2016 was the warmest year on record due to a combination of El Niño and the climate crisis.

A study by the UK Met Office concluded last year that there is a 93% chance of at least one year until 2026 being the warmest on record. It states that there is a 50:50 chance of global warming temporarily reaching 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial era.

A regional climate outlook released on 22 February warned of drought in the Horn of Africa.

A return to near-normal ENSO conditions is predicted to account for warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures for the equatorial central and eastern Pacific and other oceanic regions. The WMO has warned that the temperature is likely to be above normal.

Even though La Nina is ending, potential latent effects may continue for some time. Therefore, some of the canonical rainfall effects of La Nina may still persist. “The effect of a multi-year La Nina is basically due to its long duration and persistent circulation anomaly, which is different from a single-peak La Nina event,” WMO said.

The IMD has said that the transition from La Nina to ENSO-neutral was likely from February to April. It said that ENSO-neutral will persist in the Northern Hemisphere until early summer this year. This indicated a near 50% chance of El Niño conditions from June to August and a 60% chance from July to September.

Experts said that India should focus on developing a heat action plan at the earliest. “Responding to this forecast, state governments must make preparations immediately. Some states have already done this. M Rajeevan, former secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said the heat could have a fatal effect on vulnerable populations.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health issued Dos and Don’ts during heat waves and heatwaves. Don’ts The note states: Avoid sun exposure, especially between 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm; Avoid strenuous activities outside in the afternoon; Don’t go out barefoot; Avoid cooking during peak heat hours; Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks or drinks containing large amounts of sugar- as these actually cause more body fluid loss or can cause abdominal cramps among others.

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