News / USA

Blame it on El Niño!

US blizzards, Asia's typhoons, other extreme weather all linked to Pacific Ocean anomaly

Multimedia

Audio

Washington, D.C. is enduring its second major snowstorm in less than a week and the third this winter season. Experts say the oceanic disturbance known as El Niño is to blame for severe weather here and around the world in recent months.

Every three to seven years or so, heat buildup in the tropical Pacific Ocean reaches a critical point, says Kevin Trenberth at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research.

"In some sense," Trenberth says, "the ocean says, 'I can't stand it anymore. I'm going to have an El Niño.'"

And when it does, look out.

The warmer Pacific Ocean pours heat and moisture into the atmosphere, disturbing the usual airflow patterns and messing up weather around the world. Although the 1997-98 El Niño event was stronger, Trenberth says this current one is the strongest in a decade.

"It's still probably not in the 'major' category," he says, "but it's having some substantial influences around the world."

 

 

 

 

Storms, droughts linked

Southeast Asia felt El Niño's influence during last year's typhoon season. A series of devastating storms hit the region, killing thousands and causing massive flooding and landslides. On the other hand, dry conditions are predicted for Indonesia, raising the risk of forest fires. And farther west, late monsoon rains caused crop failures in parts of India. That has helped drive up food prices.

Although it's harder to say to what degree El Niño is to blame for India's late monsoon, Trenberth says, "It certainly doesn't help. Let me put it that way."

Some good news

But El Niño isn't all bad news. Drought-stricken California is getting some much-needed rain. And parts of Africa could benefit as well.

"The drought that's currently going on in Kenya could be alleviated by the conditions that develop in the later stages," Trenberth says. El Niño conditions are expected to continue for at least the next couple months. After that, the cycle goes into transition mode. "That's where the predictability, so to speak, is actually probably less than at any other time."

As another snowstorm blankets Washington, D.C., the prospect of more unpredictable weather is hardly a comforting thought.

 

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid