State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Potential El Nino Impacts

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) has recently released a series of documents designed to walk policymakers through the potential impacts of the current El Niño. In addition to the health-related report featured earlier, two new papers highlight weather and socioeconomic concerns associated with current climatic conditions.

As readers of this blog well know, El Niño describes sustained sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean. It is the warm phase of a coupled ocean-atmosphere system that has important – and relatively predictable – consequences for weather around the globe.

Given that El Niño conditions improve our ability to predict climate conditions in many parts of the world, researchers at the IRI have worked long and hard to show that climate information can be used by decision makers to mitigate the negative impacts of El Niño and transform El Niño years into the least costly in terms of life and property. These new reports represent their latest attempt to do just that.

The first report, entitled Current Rainfall Conditions and El Niño Teleconnections, gives an indication of where, and to what extent, expected teleconnections are playing out around the globe. This report is complemented by an Overview of Current Socioeconomics and of Upcoming Seasonal Precipitation Odds, which highlights areas most likely to suffer socioeconomic losses associated with adverse weather-related impacts. Together, they give policymakers a sense of where they might expect trouble.

If you’re thinking about checking out the documents, you might also want to visit the IRI’s ENSO web page, which includes a variety of information on both El Niño and its counterpart, La Niña. Information on the evolution of current conditions can also be found as part of the IRI’s regular climate forecast.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Wyle Nathan
14 years ago

This is a good study. It would definitely give government agencies time to prepare and think of better options during the time of El Nino. Every time el nino happens, there is a degree of difference with the effect, before, the changes and heat are not felt but its slowly affecting more and more every time it returns. Drought is now more prevalent, crops die and people have heat strokes. Just the basic few that occurs.

Joseph Conrad
14 years ago

The effects of El Nino and climate change are felt most by the developing world…the people that are least prepared to deal with it.

More resources need to be directed toward 1. determining the impact and 2. developing plans for mitigating that impact.

Institutions like the Rockefeller foundation have realized this & have committed significant money toward those objectives.

It’s a good start, but more is required.