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El Niño & La Niña

A number of coastal Indian cities experienced more than 40 degree Celsius of temperature in April 2023. The temperature increased every day in the absence of rainfalls in those cities. As unbearable heat has paralysed normal life in different parts of the South Asian nation, environmental scientists have warned that the world could face record heat in 2023. According to scientists, the temperature would continue to increase and break all the previous records in the coming years due to the return of El Niño. After considering various weather models, scientists have come to the conclusion that after the La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the return of El Niño becomes inevitable.

It may be noted that La Niña causes the jet stream to move northward and to weaken over the eastern Pacific. During La Niña winters, the South witnesses warmer and drier conditions than usual. The North and Canada tend to be wetter and colder. During La Niña, waters off the Pacific coast are colder and contain more nutrients than usual. Meanwhile, the term El Niño refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Niño takes place in countries along the eastern coast of Latin American Pacific Ocean, including Chile and Peru, in every two-seven years. As a result, the temperature of the ocean water level (or the sea surface) increases by two-four degrees Celsius. The atmosphere becomes warm in coastal areas, too, prompting the current of warm water to flow from the western edge of the Pacific Ocean to the eastern side of it. Then, the warm water of the east coast increases the temperature of several areas adjacent to the ocean. When it happens, cold water cannot rise from the bottom of the sea. Hence, the surface water does not get a chance to cool down.

Carlo Buontempo, the Director of (the EU’s) Copernicus Climate Change Service at Copernicus ECMWF, has claimed that El Niño is associated with Global Warming. However, Buontempo did not confirm whether the Earth would experience a record increase in temperatures in 2023 or in 2024.

The year 2016 was the warmest one in the world in the past. El Niño triggered a drought-like condition in different parts of India a year ago (in 2015). The amount of rainfalls, too, decreased significantly at that period of time. This time, scientists have predicted that the monsoon would be normal everywhere.

Meanwhile, there is an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As greenhouse gases trap the surface heat, different parts of the globe are witnessing heatwaves, droughts, floods, etc. In its latest report, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has mentioned that the world has suffered damage, worth several million Dollars, due to changes in environment in recent times. As per the report, heatwaves claimed 15,700 lives in Europe alone in 2022. Heatwaves killed 4,600 in Spain, 4,500 in Germany, 2,800 in Britain, 2,800 in France and 1,000 in Portugal.

The WMO has further claimed that three greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – increased rapidly in 2022. Rings of these gases trap the surface temperature, triggering a rise in heat. Hence, the average global temperature set a record in 2022. WMO Secretary General Jukka Petteri Taalas has said that Climate Change is becoming increasingly apparent, with a steady increase in greenhouse gas emissions. He stressed that people were upset almost everywhere in the world because of the unexpected change in weather conditions. According to the Finnish meteorologist, the eastern part of Africa repeatedly experienced drought in 2022, while Pakistan recorded the highest ever rainfalls, and China and Europe witnessed heatwaves. The scenario not only caused acute food shortages, but also forced people to move to other places.

The WMO has stated that heatwaves have reduced crop production in both India and Pakistan, prompting the two South Asian nations to stop exporting wheat. India also started tightening the export of rice. The Russia-Ukraine War further complicated the situation. According to scientists, the global community should take necessary steps to tackle the impact of greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to save Mother Earth, else it would be too late.

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