Warning of unprecedented heatwaves as El Niño set to return in 2023 – The Guardian

by | Jan 16, 2023 | Climate Change

Warning of unprecedented heatwaves as El Niño set to return in 2023Scientists say phenomenon coupled with growing climate crisis likely to push global temperatures ‘off the chart’ A man looks at the carcasses of animals that died due to an El Niño-related drought in southern Hargeisa, Somaliland, in April 2016. Photograph: Feisal Omar/ReutersA man looks at the carcasses of animals that died due to an El Niño-related drought in southern Hargeisa, Somaliland, in April 2016. Photograph: Feisal Omar/ReutersThe return of the El Niño climate phenomenon later this year will cause global temperatures to rise “off the chart” and deliver unprecedented heatwaves, scientists have warned.Early forecasts suggest El Niño will return later in 2023, exacerbating extreme weather around the globe and making it “very likely” the world will exceed 1.5C of warming. The hottest year in recorded history, 2016, was driven by a major El Niño.It is part of a natural oscillation driven by ocean temperatures and winds in the Pacific, which switches between El Niño, its cooler counterpart La Niña, and neutral conditions. The last three years have seen an unusual run of consecutive La Niña events.This year is already forecast to be hotter than 2022, which global datasets rank as the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. But El Niño occurs during the northern hemisphere winter and its heating effect takes months to be felt, meaning 2024 is much more likely to set a new global temperature record.Revealed: how climate breakdown is supercharging toll of extreme weatherRead moreThe greenhouse gases emitted by human activities have driven up average global temperature by about 1.2C to date. This has already led to catastrophic impacts around the world, from searing heatwaves in the US and Europe to devastating floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, harming millions of people.“It’s very likely that the next big El Niño could take us over 1.5C,” said Prof Adam Scaife, the head of long-range prediction at the UK Met Office. “The probability of having the first year at 1.5C in the next five-year period is now about 50:50.”“We know that under climate change, the impacts of El Niño events are going to get stronger, and you have to add that to the effects of climate change itself, which is growing all the time,” he said. “You put those two things together, and we are likely to see unprecedented heatwaves during the next El Niño.”The fluctuating impacts of the El Niño-La Niña cycle could be seen in many regions of the world, Scaife said. “Science can now tell us when these things are coming months ahead. So we really do need to use it and be more prepared, from having readiness of emergency services right down to what crops to plant.”Prof James Hansen, at Columbia University, in New York, and colleagues said recently: “We suggest that 2024 is likely to be off the chart as the warmest year on record. It is unlikely that the current La Niña will continue a fourth year. Even a little futz of an El Niño should be sufficient for record global temperature.” Declining air pollution in China, which blocks the sun, was also increasing heating, he said. Two views of the same coral reef in Kiribati photographed before and after the marine heatwave and strong 2015-16 El Niño: in May 2015 (L), and in June 2018 (R). Photograph: Danielle Claar/Victoria University/AFP/Getty ImagesWhile El Niño would supercharge extreme weather, the degree of exacerbation was under debate among scientists.Prof Bill McGuire, at University College London, UK, said: “When [El Niño arrives], the extreme weather that has rampaged across our planet in 2021 and 2022 will pale into insignificance.” While Prof Tim Palmer, at the University of Oxford, said: “The correlation between extreme weather and global mean temperature is not that strong [but] the thermodynamic eff …

Article Attribution | Read More at Article Source

Share This