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El Niño weather pattern returns, promising warmer temperatures and extreme weather conditions

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Posted: Saturday, June 10, 2023. 4:11 am CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: The cyclical climate phenomenon known as El Niño, associated with warm ocean temperatures and extreme weather, has reemerged, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This resurgence predicted to intensify over the forthcoming winter, could have profound implications, particularly for countries such as Belize.

Historically, Belize’s agriculture, water resources, and fire risk have been heavily affected by El Niño, typically experiencing extended drought periods. These dry spells, amplified by elevated temperatures, could damage key crops like corn, rice, and sugar cane, thereby threatening both Belize’s local economy and food security.

The warmer sea temperatures and altered precipitation patterns linked with El Niño could also harm marine ecosystems, including the Northern Hemisphere’s largest barrier reef, the Belize Barrier Reef. As the El Niño influence looms, Belize’s authorities, agriculturalists, and fishing communities are poised for action, focusing on potential impact mitigation to protect both livelihoods and critical ecosystems.

El Niño, or “little boy” in Spanish, and its sister phenomenon La Niña (“little girl”), originate from the Pacific Ocean and significantly affect global weather patterns. A moderate-to-strong El Niño generally induces wetter-than-average conditions from Southern California to the Gulf Coast, contrasting with drier conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley during autumn and winter. It also increases the likelihood of a warmer-than-average winter across the U.S.’s northern parts.

“We’ve been anticipating this for a few months and are still waiting to see how big an event it will be,” commented Gavin A. Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a CNBC interview. NOAA has projected an 84% probability of an El Niño of moderate strength or stronger, with a 56% chance of a robust El Niño developing by winter.

On a global scale, Schmidt predicts a surge in drought and fire incidents in places like Indonesia and Australia, with eastern South America experiencing more extreme rainfall and flood damage. Although regions from the Tropic of Cancer to 60 degrees north, encompassing the U.S. and much of Eurasia, might face higher temperatures, Schmidt highlighted that a heat record is not guaranteed by El Niño’s presence.

Schmidt suggested that El Niño might “boost” average global temperatures in 2024, though he doesn’t expect an increase exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. The impact of climate change on El Niño is still uncertain, though Schmidt concedes that El Niño exacerbates regional effects of climate change.

El Niño’s arrival is marked by weakening trade winds along the equator, causing warm water to shift east towards the Americas’ west coast. This results in the Pacific jet stream moving south, making the northern U.S. and Canada warmer and drier than usual, while the U.S. Gulf Coast states usually see more rainfall and flooding.

With climate patterns becoming more erratic, the importance of comprehensive preparedness and adaptive strategies is underscored by climate experts.


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