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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

El Niño and the Climate: What’s Behind Our Crazy Winter?


El Nino Winter

You’ve probably heard that this winter will be relentless. Already, California has seen heavy rain and landslides, while tornadoes have touched down in Florida. Severe weather, such as excessive snowfall, flooding, droughts, and even wildfires, is expected to occur across the globe. El Niño is back.

El Niño is the natural weather phenomenon that occurs when winds that usually help to surface cold water in the eastern Pacific are weaker than normal, resulting in warmer water. The warmer water alters storm paths across the globe, and we see more severe weather events. So, what does that have to do with you?

The last intense El Niño episode happened in the winter of 1997-1998. It led to heavy rains, landslides, wildfires, and other damaging weather events. When the event was over, the world was left with an estimated $35 billion in global damages and thousands of deaths.

This season’s El Niño has already matched the strength of the 1997-1998 El Niño and scientists expect the intense weather events to continue. In fact, this week the National Weather Service issued an alert for severe thunderstorms and a chance of a tornado in California. And it’s only January...

The effects of El Niño could evolve with a warmer atmosphere, such as the one produced by global warming. According to a study published by the journal Nature, the impacts of global warming may lead to more frequent El Niño events, as well as the doubling of extreme El Niño events.

So what can we do? Since the weather events caused by El Niño are escalating with a warmer atmosphere, which is a product of carbon pollution, we should focus on reducing our carbon footprint. By reducing our footprint we can help prevent an increase in the strength and frequency of future extreme weather events.

There are many ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint. Here are just a few:

  • Keep recycling. Recycling reduces waste and saves resources.

  • Switch your home to clean energy - this can eliminate almost 40% of your carbon footprint.

  • Drive less, or not at all. Walking, biking, or carpooling all make a difference.

By making changes to reduce the amount of carbon pollution we produce, we can help prevent the increase in extreme weather events and create a safer planet for us all. 


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