KANSAS CITY — El Niño has reached its peak of intensity and so has world hysteria and hype over the event. A recent report from the United Nations made the El Niño event seem like the worst weather event in human history and then tried to intertwine the event with its so-called “human-induced climate change” to make the event even more ominous. The truth may never be heard over the constant bantering of world alarmists.
After 36 years forecasting and covering international weather and being involved with the early years of understanding El Niño, this meteorologist is shocked to see how totally out of control the media has become when it comes to weather-related issues. This is certainly not the time or the place for another finger-pointing denial story about the severity of El Niño, but you would be foolish to believe that this El Niño phenomenon was more severe than ever in India or Australia. Even New Zealand had worse droughts in 2013 and 2014 than what has evolved so far this year. However, the year is not over.
Sure, drought has occurred in Indonesia and South Africa, and flooding rains have occurred in southern Brazil and in parts of the United States, but the question that begs to be answered is has this El Niño event really been more severe than those of the past? World Weather, Inc. believes not, but that does not mean that it has not had a negative impact on agriculture and economies, and it should not be surmised from the above statement that it was not a significant event.
However, the 1997-98 event was far more severe even though this El Niño is “possibly” going to set a record for intensity. That intensity record pertains to anomalous ocean temperatures and not to world damage. The two statistics are totally different, but the media and climate change alarmists are intertwining the two terms to continuing the hype over a “falling sky.”
Despite the recent United Nation’s statement that El Niño will intensify through the end of year, it already has peaked. The running three-month Oceanic Niño Index (ONI), a measurement index of the intensity of El Niño and La Niña events will continue to rise because the index is a running three-month index, and the peak of the El Niño intensity occurring now will not be fully reflected in the index for another few weeks. In the meantime, weakening is expected, and because the event already has matured, world weather conditions already are easing from the extremes present a few weeks ago.
Rain fell significantly in portions of Indonesia in the past few weeks easing long-term drought and improving the prospects for main season rice and other crop planting. Eastern Australia has received rain multiple times during this very strong El Niño event, but weaker El Niño events of the past have been much harder on Australia crops. Wheat, barley and canola produced very well this year, and the nation has received sufficient moisture in the past few weeks to support cotton, sorghum, corn, sunflowerseed and soybean planting in areas that are normally too dry for planting in an El Niño environment.
South Africa is in a multi-year drought that some have claimed has lasted four years, but certainly the past two years have been seriously dry. Rain will fall in South Africa during the last 10 days of November to support planting and offer relief to dryness. South Africa is expected to continue struggling for moisture over the next few weeks, despite periodic shower and thunderstorms.
India’s monsoon, predicted to be a near failure earlier this year because of El Niño, experienced below average rainfall that mostly was well timed so that crop production was not nearly as affected as predicted by some organizations.
Drought in the Philippines and mainland areas of Southeast Asia was serious this year, and production of many crops fell significantly. However, the worst of the drought ended in the Philippines late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter this year. Similar to India, rainfall in the Philippines has been below average at times, but still well timed so that production cuts since the first half of this year were somewhat curtailed. Lost production early in the year has still had an impact on total production in much of Southeast Asia and certainly the damage done in Indonesia was significant. Malaysia never experienced much of a drought, and that was different from El Niño events of the past.
And then there is Europe and the western Commonwealth of Independent States, both of which experienced significant bouts of drought in 2015. The blame has been assigned to El Niño and climate change, but neither is true. El Niño events do not traditionally produce drought in that part of the world. Since El Niño cannot be adequately blamed for the drought, then it must have been climate change because weather was never so harsh before. Droughts have come and gone in recent years just like they did in the “olden days,” but now there is an agenda and the blame for everything weather-related that has been adverse must be explained by one of these two phenomena.
Why is that so? The last this meteorologist heard, weather was an “inexact” science. We cannot forecast the future weather events because we do not fully understand weather enough to accurately create a forecast model that reflects long-term trends correctly. Suddenly, man has become so sophisticated that he has all of the answers, and therefore when we cannot explain a weather phenomenon it must be climate change, global warming, El Niño or perhaps too much hot air coming from the various political arenas.
Where do we go from here? El Niño is weakening, and it will become more evident as the end of the year arrives. The first feature that will be noted is that Madden Julian Oscillation (M.J.O.) events will become more numerous over the next few months, enhancing precipitation through the tropics and subtropics. M.J.O. is a phenomenon of its own that controls how much rising motion is in the atmosphere over the tropics. Positive M.J.O. events will enhance the rising motion in the atmosphere, creating stronger thunderstorms and greater rain events. The negative phase suppresses rising motion and limits rainfall.
Strong El Niño and La Niña events usually stymie M.J.O. events and restrict the number of times that significantly great rising motion takes place in the tropics, which contributes to the drier bias that is often associated with El Niño. Once El Niño starts to weaken more M.J.O. events will be allowed and rainfall should start increasing in waves from Africa to Indonesia and Australia. These same M.J.O. events also will help fuel rain in California and the southern United States as winter gets under way.
Typically the weakening trend in El Niño becomes greatest during the winter and spring seasons, and that is one of the reasons why the extreme conditions of El Niño seen recently may be the peak of the event. That does not mean that anomalously dry and wet conditions will not continue to impact areas around the world, but it does suggest that there will be opportunity for relief more often, and that should support more of the proverbially “egg on the face” that alarmists are having to deal with. It was just a few years ago that global warming was predicted to continue uncontrollably, but now that the earth’s temperature has not warmed above that of 1998 the term global warming became global climate change. So what will happen in a few more years when the solar minimum arrives and the earth’s temperature takes a tumble? Will that be climate change, too, or will it be some other new term designed to mislead and frighten the general public?