Previously I wrote about El Nino and what it means for us in 2023 and beyond. This article is an extension of that prior article building on what is now being noticed weatherwise by climatologists around the globe. Let me begin a recap of what El Nino is and does.
Global weather patterns swing between El Nino and La Nina. These two exchange roles every two to seven years. During the El Nino periods the central and eastern Pacific Ocean closer to the equator experiences warmer than their normal average temperature. These warmer waters weaken the trade winds moving the Pacific jet stream south. What does this mean to us?
According to NOAA the El Nino seasons typically see increased rainfall, drought in other locales around the world, record high temperatures, and more erratic weather activity. All of this impacts how we live and for many how they make a living. For example, droughts can cause crops that are normally grown to die and that means less food for the animals and people, and less income for the farmers too. Warmer oceans mean that our natural reefs are faltering, and fish are swimming toward the poles to escape the heat and feed leaving local fishermen without a way to make a living. This can have dramatic effects on the world.
Recently, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and parts of New York saw rains that were 300% – 500% higher than normal creating flooding they had not seen since Hurricane Irene in 2011. Roadways, bridges, homes, and highways were obliterated. Many drivers got stuck in their cars and had to swim out to safety or be rescued. People were left without power and some even died. NOAA said this was a “ 1 in 1,000-year rainfall event”.
Much of the USA is seeing record triple-digit temperatures. Phoenix is setting records with the number of days that temperatures have reached over 110 degrees. Forecasts predict they may see temps up to and maybe beyond 117 degrees for that area. Death Valley, California is slated to hit 127 degrees or more. Las Vegas is supposed to be 117 degrees too. This hot, dry, weather is ripe for creating wildfires. Currently, there are eleven wildfires burning in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Southern portion of the US may experience temps near 115 degrees. Florida has set record highs lately for temps exceeding 100 degrees with the heat index and durations lasting over thirty days. Warm oceans hold less oxygen and can kill fish. Thousands of fish died off the coast of Texas in June of this year littering the beaches with dead carcasses. Oceans that are warmer than they ought to be are also prone to algae blooms. These are toxic to people and fish.
Warm temperatures drive more people to the beach to cool off. Fish need to cool off too, but they also need to eat. The ocean is their kitchen. When these fish are forced to migrate north due to warm water and less food there is also a precipitous increase in shark bites along these densely populated beaches. In 2022 there were fifty-seven unprovoked shark bites across the USA. Seven months into 2023 we have already recorded thirty-seven shark bites in the US. Many of these have occurred in locales that were not previously wrought with sharks.
It is not only the summer months that will note changes in rainfall, drought, and wonky temperatures due to El Nino, but also increases in erratic weather patterns like hurricanes and tornadoes. During the fall and winter, we can expect to see more snow, more rain, and possibly sleet or hail, but also more warm temperatures.
No matter what side of the climate change argument you are on things are happening weather-wise and environmentally. We need to keep a close eye on that to determine our best path forward or even whether or not there is a path forward.
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