Super El Niño Events May Be Twice as Likely Due to Global Warming

Super El Niño Events May Be Twice as Likely Due to Global Warming

February 11

Global warming is a crazy thing. You hear about it every and now then, but rarely hear much of anything regarding what’s actually being done to prevent it. Scientists have long warned that this worldwide warming trend could result in radical climate changes that impact ecological systems, sea level, food supply, and human health. The latest word out of the scientific community cautions that it might also influence a potentially disastrous natural occurrence with the power to claim thousands  of lives and cause billions of dollars worth of economic damage. Enter the Super El Niño conundrum. 

The Huffington Post recently reported on a new study suggesting that global warming’s impact on climate shifts could dramatically increase the frequency of events known as extreme or “Super El Niños”. The research specifically identified the eastern equatorial Pacific as the trouble spot, citing that its surface is projected to warm considerably faster than the ocean waters surrounding it. According to the results, these conditions could increase the likelihood of Super El Ninos from the average of one every 20 years to one every 10 years, essentially doubling the frequency.

Super El Niños Defined

Scientists define Super El Niños as natural phenomena that occur when the waters of the Pacific Ocean are warmed to a point where they influence global weather patterns. The most damaging of these events took place from 1997 through 1998. California, Peru, and Australia were among the areas pummeled with a relentless series of powerful storms that swept in from the Pacific. Villages were washed away, families were misplaced, and worldwide damage was evident. In the end, roughly 23,000 lives were lost while the global economy ate an estimated $45 billion.

Another of these extreme weather events took place from 1982 to 1983. This time, a substantial increase in rain in the equatorial eastern Pacific, where it’s typically cold and dry, was the cause of global disruption. The severe change in weather resulted in tropical cyclones, floods, bush fires, and massive dust clouds, which lingered over locations like Melbourne, Australia due to devastating droughts. While not as costly as the event in the 90s, this particular occurrence, too, had a significant impact on ecosystems, agriculture, and economies around the world.

Getting Twice as Serious About Preparation

While the link to climate change and its influence on the Super El Niño phenomenon appears quite strong, experts still do not have what can be considered scientific evidence of the fact. A report on ClimateCentral said the projections of frequency increases from global warming could all be a freaky coincidence. However, that same report mentioned that even without the warming aspect, it’s possible that El Niños could wreak havoc on humanity at regular strength – no “super” label needed. The fact that we are indeed heating things up down here only makes this aspect all the more concerning.

With the threat of more Super El Niños looming, the smartest thing we can all do is adopt a disaster recovery mentality and prepare for the worst. On a national level, getting prepared entails groups like the Red Cross coordinating evacuation routes and safety precautions with local communities. On a business level, it means making sure you have a plan for backing up and restoring your systems. Disaster recovery should particularly be a priority for organizations located in areas that are most susceptible to pounding rainfall, flooding, droughts, and raging wildfires.

Considering all the monumental advances in technology, it’s probably safe to say were are better equipped to handle such extreme weather events than we were in the early 1980s or even the late 1990s. On that note, we can’t seem to get our act together enough to stop global warming in its tracks, so whether it’s taking extra precautions in the data center or stocking the homefront with custom-made survival kits, the least we can do is try to prepare for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar via Flickr