November 27, 2018

A climate-warming El Niño event is likely in 2019, UN agency says

A climate-warming El Niño event is likely in 2019, UN agency says

According to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is a 75–80% chance that there will be a climate-warming El Niño event by February 2019. 

The last El Niño event ended in 2016, and that year was the hottest ever recorded. The warming effects of the natural climate event added to the heat caused by humanity’s carbon emissions. 

El Niño events stem from abnormally high ocean temperatures, and occur roughly every few years. These events majorly influence the weather around the world, with floods affecting normally drier areas like South America and droughts reaching normally damp regions in parts of Australia. 

Several forecasters have warned of an imminent El Niño, with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology saying in October that a dry, hot summer was very likely, with increased risk of bushfires. High temperatures also cause major bleaching of coral reefs.

Maxx Dilley, the director of WMO’s climate prediction and adaption branch, said: “The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015–2016. Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agriculture and food security, and for management of water resources and public health. It may also combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures.”

IZA World of Labor author, Marie Connelly, notes that with climate change and higher temperatures, societies will have to adapt to their new realities and may need to change their working habits.

She suggests in her article that “allowing more flexible working hours would enable people to adapt more easily to hot temperatures, by shifting their working hours to cooler moments of the day or to cooler days.”

The 2019 El Niño event is not currently forecast to be as strong as the 2016 event. However, there is evidence that climate change is making the effects of El Niño events more severe. 

Greenhouse gases are at record concentrations, along with the continuing billions of tonnes of carbon emissions, making their heating affect stronger than ever. 

Additionally, human-caused global warming has resulted in 17 of the 18 hottest years on record since 1850 to occur between 2000 and 2017. Scientists expect 2018 to be the fourth hottest year on record, with this year witnessing many climate related disasters.

WMO estimate the chance of an El Niño event between December 2018 and February 2019 to be at 75–80%, with 60% chance of it continuing until April. 

Past El Niño events have seen the surface temperatures of the western Pacific sea rising 1.5C above average. The current temperature predictions for the imminent El Niño range from 0.8C to 1.2C above average. 

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