Climate Action

The Threat of El Niño

“January and February are just around the corner. If you think you should make preparations, get off the couch and do it now. These storms are imminent” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.

With these words, Patzert voiced the concerns of many in the scientific community over the impacts of El Niño in the following months. “El Niño is a climate phenomenon that occurs when a vast pool of water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm.” And according to Patzert, “El Niño is here. And it is huge…” This year marked one of the strongest El Niño weather events in the last 50 years. So far, the event has caused extensive droughts and flooding in the tropical and sub-tropical zones of the globe.

Even though experts predict that California will have a significantly wetter winter than it has had in years, Gov. Jerry Brown remains cautious with water conservation in the state. If and when California’s drought is still present in January, the Governor has said that “mandatory water cuts will remain in effect until October.”

The threat of El Niño also reaches the most vulnerable nations and could have serious implications for their peoples. The United Nations Children’s Fund warned that “11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water due to El Niño in eastern and southern Africa alone.” In regions of Central America, severe droughts caused by the phenomenon have also led to an increased need for food aid.

Because temperatures were already rising before El Niño, experts are wary of what this event could implicate. “So this naturally occurring El Niño event and human induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways which we have never before experienced,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Michel Jarraud.

Ada Moreno, Intern