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"All Kinds Of Mayhem Will Let Loose" As Strongest El Nino In Decades Looms

September was officially the warmest ever recorded around the globe (the 7th time this year a month has set a record) as El nino is back in a big way. As Bloomberg reports, its effects are just beginning in much of the world -- for the most part, it hasn’t really reached North America -- and yet it’s already shaping up potentially as one of the three strongest El Nino patterns since record-keeping began in 1950.  Expect "major disruptions, widespread droughts and floods," warned a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, adding that without preparation, "all kinds of mayhem will let loose."

September was the warmest ever recorded around the globe, the seventh time this year a month has set a record for average global temperature

. As CBS reports,

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last month’s global temperature was 60.62 degrees, beating a record set just last year.

In all, seven months this year have set monthly records for global heat, including July, which was the hottest month ever recorded. Only January and April did not set records for global warmth.

It also has been the warmest first nine months of any year ever recorded, dating back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden said it would take an extended cold stretch the rest of the year for 2015 not to pass 2014 as the hottest on record.

With a strong El Niño cycle in place over the Pacific, that appears highly unlikely, as Bloomberg details, the strongest El Nino in decades is going to mess with everything...

It has choked Singapore with smoke, triggered Pacific typhoons and left Vietnamese coffee growers staring nervously at dwindling reservoirs. In Africa, cocoa farmers are blaming it for bad harvests, and in the Americas, it has Argentines bracing for lower milk production and Californians believing that rain is finally, mercifully on the way.

 

 

Its effects are just beginning in much of the world -- for the most part, it hasn’t really reached North America -- and yet it’s already shaping up potentially as one of the three strongest El Nino patterns since record-keeping began in 1950. It will dominate weather’s many twists and turns through the end of this year and well into next. And it’s causing gyrations in everything from the price of Colombian coffee to the fate of cold-water fish.

 

Expect “major disruptions, widespread droughts and floods,” Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In principle, with advance warning, El Nino can be managed and prepared for, “but without that knowledge, all kinds of mayhem will let loose.”

In the simplest terms, an El Nino pattern is a warming of the equatorial Pacific caused by a weakening of the trade winds that normally push sun-warmed waters to the west. This triggers a reaction from the atmosphere above.

Its name traces back hundreds of years to the coast of Peru, where fishermen noticed the Pacific Ocean sometimes warmed in late December, around Christmas, and coincided with changes in fish populations. They named it El Nino after the infant Jesus Christ. Today meteorologists call it the El Nino Southern Oscillation.

 

 

The last time there was an El Nino of similar magnitude to the current one, the record-setting event of 1997-1998, floods, fires, droughts and other calamities killed at least 30,000 people and caused $100 billion in damage, Trenberth estimates. Another powerful El Nino, in 1918-19, sank India into a brutal drought and probably contributed to the global flu pandemic, according to a study by the Climate Program Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

*  *  *
While the effect on the U.S. may not reach a crescendo until February, much of the rest of the world is already feeling the impact, Trenberth said.

“It probably sits at No. 2 in terms of how strong this event is, but we won’t be able to rank it until it peaks out and ends,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

For Australia, El Nino can often mean drought.

“In broadest terms, though, we have had 26 past El Nino events since 1900, of which 17 resulted in widespread drought, so we in Australia have to manage for drought in any El Nino event,” Watkins said.

But there is some good news for California...

As the atmosphere changes, storm tracks in the U.S., for instance, are pushed down from the north, so the region from California to Florida could get more rain. This is reflected in the latest three-month outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, which sees high odds that heavy rain will sweep from California into the mid-Atlantic states through January. Texas and Florida have the greatest chance for downpours.

 

While this isn’t likely to end California’s four-year drought, it would improve conditions. Eliminating the dryness completely will be difficult because the state is so far behind on its normal rainfall.

However...

“If the wettest year were to occur, we still wouldn’t erase the deficit we have seen in the last four years,” said Alan Haynes, service coordination hydrologist at the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento.

“The general thing about these things is, if you are prepared, it doesn’t have to be a negative,” Trenberth said. Here's hoping!!