Unpredictable, uncertain, erratic and intense — this is what the impact of climate change would be on global weather patterns in the near future. With the rising average temperature of the earth due to emissions of greenhouses gases, global warming and climate change have been reshaping the way weather events behave. El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon of periodic warming of ocean water, that occurs every two to five years in the Pacific ocean with an impact on weather patterns across the globe, may intensify due to climate change and in future, we may witness more Super El Niños.
As per climatologists, since the second half of the 1970s, the location where El Niño originated has been shifting to the western Pacific Ocean from the eastern Pacific as a result of climate change. This has not only increased the frequency of extreme weather events but also their intensity worldwide. The westward shift has been up to thousands of miles. Climate change has been warming Western tropical Pacific ocean surface waters at a much higher rate than that of the Central Pacific. The temperature changes in the West Pacific Warm Pool, which is a warmer area in the western tropical Pacific ocean, has been changing the trade winds pattern in the equatorial tropical Pacific. As the trade winds blow from cooler to a warmer temperature, the disproportionate warming of the western Pacific has led to stronger trade winds.
The climate change is expected to worsen in the coming years in the absence of major reduction in greenhouse gases emission. This would mean more warming and more heat to the water surface of oceans. As a result, El Niño may drastically alter global weather patterns. For example, in California, the United States, the frequency of storms can lash it in the winters, may increase exponentially. Precipitation extremes would become visible from Asia to Africa and Australia. In the past events of super El Niños which occurred in 1982, 1198 and between 2015 and 2016, hundreds of millions of people were affected and the impacted nations lost billions of dollars in damages to property and infrastructure. Super El Niños can push the global temperature to a record high which in turn would be disastrous for the marine ecosystem, such as, killing off corals. On one hand, it may even bring floods in some regions of Africa and Asia, while on the other, it may dry out some regions with more drought and heat waves.
The difference between the El Niños originating in the western Pacific ocean and that originating in the eastern Pacific is in the onset of extreme events in other than the expected season. These western-based events will begin to have an impact on northern hemisphere by bringing extreme weather instances during the summer. Drought and heat waves would become more frequent in the western United States. Hence, in the years to come, the climate change is expected to bring more super El Niños which will have a deleterious impact on people globally, leading to loss of livelihood and lives, damage to homes and properties, political and socio-economic instability and we must embrace ourselves to adapt to these calamities.