El Nino is an irregular weather event, which occurs every few years in the Pacific Ocean and often presages the onset of irregular warm weather. This event is generally characterized by above-average ocean temperatures and results in warm but nutrient poor waters which, it was discovered later on was the main culprit behind some of the aberrant climates that affected many parts of the world. While it is easy to tag El Nino as a destructive event, one that affects over 60 million worldwide (according to UN), the truth is that it does result in a few positives such as lowered malarial infections, in and around South America. There is no set time frame as to when El Nino will arrive but it typically occurs around November, December of each year and it can last for two years or so. Here’s to taking a closer look at some of the positive and negative impacts of El Nino
The Positive Impact of El Niño
- Tornados: Typically a tornado which often occurs in the Midwest United States, is extremely destructive and does not last for long. It consists of a violently rotating column of air, in touch with the ground and decimates everything in its path. But as El Nino impacts the jet stream, this results in fewer tornadoes, reducing by nearly 50%. While Tornadoes do still occur with increasing frequency in the US, the number had been drastically reduced for over the last two years since the latest El Nino event began.
- Milder winters: With a resurgent El Nino, areas that were typically prone to harsh winter storms and extremes of winter weather can heave a sigh of relief. With El Nino, you can expect drier winters and a lesser number of winter storms. The weather would be mild compared to the previous winters people should be able to move about safely and not stay hunkered down, behind doors waiting for the winter storm to end.
- Ecology: As a result of warmer waters in the Pacific, this should result in some of the big predators moving from the area in search of cooler temperatures. This has a positive impact on the fish population as it enables them to repopulate the waters. Similarly, the presence of warmer waters, especially in December, helps the migratory birds as well as they seek to migrate to warmer locations for the upcoming winter.
The Negative Impact of El Niño
- Deficient monsoon: Typically, the changing ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean affects weather patterns all over the world and even impacts the monsoon. India, Indonesia and other southeastern Asian countries depend on regular monsoon and as a major part of their economy are based on agriculture, even a slightly deficient monsoon can be disastrous. EL Nino can offset the monsoon and even cause widespread droughts and famines; moreover, it is hard to estimate as to how badly a monsoon will be affected by the El Nino effect but one thing is for sure, there will be a residual impact on monsoon which in turn can even precipitate a drought like condition.
- Wildfires: A resurgent El Nino can even help cause drier weather in certain parts of the world, namely Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the Pacific Islands. Prevailing hot temperatures coupled with dry weather and sharp winds are often the perfect recipe for a bushfire. El Nino sets the conditions for an out of control bushfire and all it requires is a spark; to put it in perspective, the latest bushfire to hit Australia consumed over 70 homes, buildings and tracts of forests, while causing destruction in its wake.
- GDP: As the El Nino directly impacts the monsoon, the deficient rainfall leads to lacklustre agricultural produce which impacts the GDP of the nation directly. Several countries often face high inflation and lowered growth projections as a result of El Nino effect.
- Fishing industry: Due to the variance in Ocean temperatures, thanks to El Nino, fishes often move to colder, nutrient-rich waters. This has resulted in losses in the fishing industry for the duration of the El Nino, which can have a cascading effect on the rest of the economy when you take into consideration the higher than usual inflation, lowered growth projections and the impact on agriculture.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of El Nino; at the moment we lack both the knowledge, and technical expertise to prevent an El Nino from occurring and all that we can do is to mitigate some of the effects and ride it out.