Climate Change Could Double the Risk Of Extreme Weather From El Niña

Cassie Trotter / Getty Images

The risk of extreme weather events from La Niña in the Pacific Ocean could double due to climate change, researchers say.

The projected twofold increase in frequency could lead to more droughts, floods in the western Pacific regions and Atlantic hurricanes.

Weather patterns could switch between extremes of wet and dry.

El Niño and La Niña events are opposite phases of the natural climate phenomenon, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Extreme La Niña events occur when cold sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean contrast with the warming land areas of Maritime Southeast Asia in the west.

The latest research suggests increased land warming, coupled with an increase in frequency of extreme El Niño events, will mean extreme La Niña could occur every 13 years, rather than the 23 years previously seen.

Professor Mat Collins from the University of Exeter says: “Our previous research showed a doubling in frequency of extreme El Niño events, and this new study shows a similar fate for the cold phase of the cycle. It shows again how we are just beginning to understand the consequences of global warming.”

The results of the research, led by CSIRO scientist Dr Wenju Cai, are published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

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