El Niño has officially begun, and its arrival means that temperatures are set to rise even further. This natural climate phenomenon is characterized by warmer ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, which in turn leads to hotter weather globally.
According to Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, El Niño could result in new temperature records being set. This phenomenon exacerbates the effects of climate change, caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The hottest years on record often coincide with El Niño events. However, focusing solely on temperature superlatives can overshadow the larger trend. Despite the presence of a persistent La Niña, which depressed global temperatures and only recently dissipated, the past eight years have been the hottest ever recorded. This demonstrates the overwhelming impact of human-induced warming, which surpasses the natural variability of Earth’s temperature.
El Niño also intensifies the consequences of climate change in various ways. In the northern United States and Canada, El Niño typically brings drier and warmer weather. This is particularly concerning for Canada, as it has already experienced an unusually hot spring and is grappling with widespread wildfires from Alberta to the Maritimes in the East.
In the southern United States, where climate change has made heavy rainstorms more frequent and severe, El Niño exacerbates the situation. This is especially detrimental to communities that have recently faced the destruction of homes and loss of lives due to flash floods. The existing drainage and stormwater infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle the substantial amount of rain that now falls within short periods.
One positive aspect for residents in the United States is that El Niño tends to suppress Atlantic hurricanes. During El Niño years, wind conditions are unfavorable for hurricane development, resulting in fewer storms. However, the impact of human-caused climate change is still evident in this regard. The Atlantic waters are already warm due to climate disruption, and warmer water provides a conducive environment for hurricane intensification. Consequently, this year’s hurricane forecast does not align with the expectations for an El Niño year, as forecasters predict a slightly above-average number of storms.
In conclusion, El Niño’s arrival signifies a further rise in temperatures globally. It intensifies the effects of climate change, resulting in drier and warmer conditions in the northern United States and Canada, and more intense rainstorms in the southern United States. While El Niño typically suppresses Atlantic hurricanes, the influence of human-induced climate change counteracts this effect, leading to a forecast of slightly above-average storm activity.