Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Data Shows El Nino Has Accelerated Climate Change In Record-setting Year

Recent research now vindicates the earlier work of S. George Philander on the relationship of El Nino to global warming. Philander originally showed. (Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (March 31, 1998):Who is El Nino?’)   that exacerbated ocean temperatures were largely tied to heating effects  in El Nino years.

Philander argued that El Nino and its sister cyclic counterpart 'La Nina' are not merely the yin and yangs of a meteorological cycle (La Nina from current forecasts is due to ramp up the end of next year) but actually offshoots of climate change in terms of their expected future behavior. Thus, as more CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere (as indicated by the Keeling curve - which shows CO2 injection has exceeded the absorption capacity of the oceans), El Nino will ramp up leading to blistering hot and dry conditions..

The data records extracted from last year unimpeachably support this hypothesis. For reference, the year 2015 was the warmest year (on average) globally since record keeping began 150 years ago. Almost the entire blame can be placed on the phenomenon of El Nino, as the graph show indicates - giving the year vs. the difference from the multi-year average in degrees Celsius.

Basically, El Nino generates unusually warm Pacific Ocean waters marking the current El Nino event which itself amplifies heating over land. Thus, temperatures spiked around the globe last fall as El Nino led to month after month of record breaking temperatures. Indeed, by December temperatures had reached 3.6F higher than normal. Then, in its early stages El Nino had already spun off environmental havoc including "red tides" - from a certain species of algae, as well as rendering a species of California crab inedible.

Subsequently, drought was triggered in many parts of the world - including in India - where over 300 million have been affected. Schools had to be been shut down in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths from heatstroke have been reported from across the country. These include the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw over 2,000 heat deaths last summer.  The Indian government has reported nearly 256 districts affected across India, home to nearly a fourth of the country's population.

Meanwhile, in Papua, New Guinea, drought has driven brushfires affecting millions while in Bolivia over a million animals (sheep, llamas) perished as pastureland dried out. And we have already observed the horrific scenes out of Ft. McMurray, Alberta with a monster fire dubbed "the Beast" - spawned by a combination of hot temperatures and brutally dry conditions.

For a further reality check, global temperatures this past February were 2.2 F above the 20th century average making it the most anomalously hot month on record - with man-made global warming playing a lasting role in the recent heat - including the heat wave in India that has gone over a week with temperatures reaching 104 F. 

Based on a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change the contribution of greenhouse gases (the human component) arising from the burning of fossil fuels, has increased from 15 percent at the beginning of the 20th century to more than 70 percent after 1970 - and continuing to the present day. In addition to increased greenhouse gas concentrations, including from methane, we have to factor in the influence of El Nino - not only in spawning monster heat waves but prolonged droughts leading to catastrophes like the Ft McMurray catastrophe.

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