We live in a world where people love to have their cake and eat it, too. We want a clean house without having to clean. We want to be, but we don’t want to do. We want to stop global warming and climate change, but we don’t want to change our daily habits. We want to avoid things like climate-change induced natural disasters, but we aren’t willing to put in the work to prevent it.
There is hope, yes, but time is running short. We’re at the point where convincing people to live greener and be nicer to the environment has to come with a dire warning of impending doom. It sounds a bit melodramatic, yes, but it’s true.
And now scientists have one more thing you can add to your dire warning speech: the fact that the occurrence of “super” El Niños is likely to double as our planet continues to warm. El Niño refers to an unusually warm water pattern that stretches across the eastern equatorial Pacific every 3-7 years. And every once in a while, we see a bigger one, such as the super El Niño of 1997-1998 and one in 1982-1983. With these super El Niños often comes a slough of other weather-related debauchery like heavy rains, landslides, wildfires, and more. In 1997-98, there were an estimated 23,000 deaths worldwide and $35-$40 billion in damage attributed to El Niño.
Whereas now the likelihood of a super El Niño is one every twenty years or so, as the planet warms that number will change to one every ten years. El Niños will still occur on about the same schedule, but more of them will be abnormally strong.
The study that predicted these changes was conducted by Wenjun Cai and a team of researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia. The findings were published in Nature Climate Change.