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Is El Niño the elephant in Paris or will it change the mindset there?

By JW.Dowey - 10 Dec 2015 19:57:0 GMT
 Is El Niño the <q>elephant in Paris</q> or will it change the mindset there?

When the shit hits the cooling fan, delegates from Paris may find themselves the butt of more than jokes unless they can satisfy not human demands but those of extreme weather. What we are saying is that there is an elephant in the room and a giant polar bear in Parisian boulevards. Extreme weather is now well understood and unless we act today, rapid, more extreme developments shown in the Pacific maps should prove what must be done, even before the COP 21 has subsided

El Niño image; Credit: © Shutterstock

In 1997, the effects of a great El Niño were first felt around the Pacific and beyond although 400 years had passed since similar weather was last seen Not many realised how and why their crops were dying, wildlife was disappearing and temperatures wildly fluctuated both above and below normal. We have learned the cause and the current Paris Climate Conference faces that evidence alongside the other unimaginable effects of global warming. What is so far not evident are the approaching horrors of this year’s giant El Niño. Since the end of October NOAA(from Hawaii in the US)has reported their increasing worries over huge rises in sea surface temperatures in the centre of the Pacific. 3.2oC above average, well above the 1997/98 event, is one whole load of energy. This morning, NOAA have reported extreme weather in the northern hemisphere is likely for January. The obviously extreme El Niño event has matured and is ready to do its worst, weakening only after late springtime.

Much to the chagrin of the Parisian delegates who aren’t quite with the mood, our weather systems seem certain to help decide how we should react. I’m afraid the forecast from the central Pacific Ocean and its tormented islands is that this is the biggest yet. The air above such oceanic temperature rises is bound to suffer the same fate, with resultant winds and pressure systems appropriate to weather we have experienced before. And none of us are likely to escape some of the effects, whether it is commercial shortages or loss of actual land use. Perhaps now we can use those much decried scientific models to help those most affected, before they are hit!

Heavy rains have begun with the monsoon in India, indicating how wide we can expect the consequences this year. The rain is normal, but careful measurement is already confirming the large extent of the rainfall. The unscientific get confused when Indonesia comes into the picture, as drought there is causing many fires to be set. The connection with warming though is very obvious. Exactly the same kind of reaction from the so-called deniers appears when sea-levels have dropped recently around Pacific reefs. But don’t forget what happens before a tsunami. Samoans have an ancient name for smelly reef. Taimasa indicates to them that an extreme warming is in progress, just as coral bleaching has also begun in many other reefs. Extreme drought and flood has been forecast by experts for years as the sign of the extreme El Niño and other effects we can expect to double (at least) over the next century.

2015 is the hottest year on record, but that’s nothing. The decade is altogether more heated than its predecessors, while our current century will certainly be recorded as the hottest in the near future. Perhaps it is for the best that these terrible warnings come as Paris makes its final commitments, as the wary politician should heed at least this natural warning. But it is obvious that many people will die because of this worst weather in history.

We cannot know where the worst effects will be. Australia normally avoids bad times because an oscillation of temperatures in the Indian Ocean is mild at the moment. Peru and Ecuador could also escape some of the effects as the warm water is well away from their coasts. California has suffered recently, but this heavy weather could relieve their perennial drought. Whatever your religion, our prayers need to be with those who actually find themselves in the forefront of this year’s extreme weather. Whatever happens, don’t forget that rotten old El Niño is always followed by an equally terrible La Niña!

(PS. If you really want to know more and how the Atlantic warmth also manages to influence the Pacific and forthcoming extreme weather, read Axel Timmerman and Shayne McGregor’s opinions in our story from last year.)