El Niño 2019 + Climate Change

El Niño 2019 + Climate Change

The new norms of cold and warm extremes

by Pedro Walpole SJ

With the heat of the Australian summer in the southern hemisphere and the freezing in North America by the polar vortex, 2019 begins with the extremes. For those in the tropics, especially the west Pacific, there is a need to be watching the east Pacific 3.4 zone to understand the emerging El Niño, which if it persists beyond mid-year, will impact globally.

National Geographic recently shared a video which is a very good explanation of what is happening. This should be shared in all schools, government offices and community centres; we need to understand and calmly prepare for El Niño and not become fraught and agitated.

In the Asia Pacific region, conserving water is an urgent priority as in some areas, there is already a 60% reduction in the average rainfall for the past three months of the rainy season. Present predictions are at an early stage and the now declared El Niño of 2019 is not (yet) predicted to be as severe as 1997, when Mindanao lost rains for much of the year.

The Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines recently put out a warning advisory and a dry condition/dry spell/drought assessment. El Niño is now 90% certain for January to February 2019 and is expected to continue through to March until May 2019 with 60% chance.

There is no information yet how long this condition might go on beyond May 2019 and communities and local governments in the areas affected cannot wait until March to act, as that will be too late.  The farmers will most likely lose one harvest, if not two, in Mindanao. This is the creeping disaster.

I remember Bukidnon in the last great drought of 1997 and 2019 hopefully will not be as bad, but it was the worst in history.  There was no food, and indigenous communities foraged for root crops and went to the forests, while migrants returned to their family roots in Bohol in central Philippines, and to other islands.  Government relief was three months in coming, delivering a box of noodles for the entire community.

Please remember the event is not due to climate change per se, but a complex of activities in the eastern Pacific and the oscillation of the southern pole of the Earth.  That is why the event is called El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  BUT climate change is exacerbating the event and making it geometrically worse.

There are several other ecological disasters ongoing at present, the air pollution in Bangkok, and the mining dam that broke in Brazil.  We cannot cover all these events, but on Ecojesuit’s Facebook page, updates are shared.  We ask for others to contribute and for greater collaboration in Reconciliation with Creation.


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