El Niño is expected to break heat records in 2024

There is a 90 percent chance that Earth’s average surface temperature will reach a record high for the year leading up to June 2024, according to new research published today in the journal. Scientific reports. Some places will be warmer than others, especially in parts of Asia. The heat has cascading effects, such as increasing the risk of drought and wildfires.

The cause of this is a weather pattern known as El Niño. El Niño is part of a natural, cyclical phenomenon, but climate change is raising the stakes by raising base temperatures before El Niño moves in to push the mercury even higher.

“We have seen that this kind of warming can cause many problems in the world, so we want to let people know,” said Deliang Chen, one of the authors of the new study and a professor in the Earth Department. sciences at the University of Gothenburg.

“We want to give people a heads up.”

There are three phases in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with El Niño being the extremely warm phase of the cycle. During a neutral phase, trade winds over the Pacific Ocean drive warm water near South America westward toward Asia, allowing cooler water from the depths to rise to the ocean’s surface. These winds weaken during El Niño, creating a large area of ​​the Pacific Ocean that is much warmer than normal. As a result, the heat stored in the ocean is released into the atmosphere.

That’s why El Niño can lead to strange weather, although the effects vary from region to region. Before the current El Niño emerged last June, forecasters were already predicting the devastation it could cause. The World Meteorological Organization said this, together with climate change, would ‘push global temperatures into uncharted territory’. Unsurprisingly, 2023 became the hottest year since records began in 1850 – with temperatures unofficially thought to be the hottest in at least the past 100,000 years.

To predict what awaits us in 2024, Chen and his colleagues modeled two possible scenarios: one under a moderate El Niño and another under a strong El Niño. With a moderate El Niño, the Bay of Bengal and the Philippines are expected to be the worst hit this year. The Philippines, a tropical archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, will face persistent drought in the coming months. In the Bay of Bengal, which borders several countries in South and Southeast Asia, El Niño often leads to marine heat waves that can bleach and kill coral reefs that nearby communities depend on for their livelihoods and provide a buffer against tropical storms.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Ning Jiang and Congwen Zhu via Scientific reports

According to the new research, a strong El Niño would also break temperature records this year in the Caribbean, the South China Sea, the Amazon and Alaska. The Caribbean, the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal could all experience year-round marine heat waves in this more extreme scenario. Severe drought could fuel wildfires in the Amazon, while skyrocketing temperatures could accelerate the loss of glaciers and permafrost in Alaska. Strong El Niños have cost the global economy trillions of dollars in the past.

Fortunately, the world could dodge a bullet this year, with a moderate El Niño now looking most likely. But even that is expected to be enough to push the world past a new record for global average surface temperature in June. El Niño is expected to end by then, but typically returns every two to seven years.

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