Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

El Niño Starts In 2009

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I’ve wanted to blog about this for a while: NOAA scientists announced earlier this month that a new El Niño has officially begun.  More correctly identified as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), it is a climate phenomenon with worldwide impacts.  Fewer Atlantic hurricanes tend to form when there is an El Niño.  Rainfall patterns around the world are affected: some places see intense droughts while others experience record-breaking rains.

On top of all that, there is now a higher chance that we will see a new global yearly average temperature record in the next few years.  It will do so because it is a short-term climate modulation, the largest variable in the natural dynamical variability of the climate system.  Previous global temperature extremes have been set during El Niño years: i.e. 2007, 2005 and 1998.  Now, I’m not saying that 2009 is guaranteed to be the hottest year on record.  There’s a good reason for that: a few months ago, the planet was emerging from a moderate, but long-lived La Niña event, which helped to mute the human-forced temperature trend for a couple of years.  Note that 2008 was still warmer than every other year in the 1990s except 1998.  So I would expect 2009 to continue to be abnormally warm and maybe 2010 will take a crack at the 1998 temperature record.

Not that that’s a good thing – but it will prove all of the climate change denyers and delayers wrong one more time.  Perhaps record warmth in the following months will help convince the U.S. Congress to pass a robust climate action bill.  Don’t worry – I won’t hold my breath over that either.

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