The past few years have seen weather extremes around the globe – and it looks like we won’t be catching a break this year, either. Scientists predict there’s an 80 percent chance that El Nino will hit sometime between October and November, and a 60 percent chance that it could hit even sooner – anytime between now and the end of August. El Nino causes all kinds of weather extremes – from drought to flooding – in every part of the globe, which can dramatically disrupt agriculture and the world’s food supply.
El Nino happens every two to seven years when trade winds in the Pacific temporarily weaken. The result is a warming effect that can lead to all kinds of changes in the weather. It usually means a dry year in parts of Asia, the US and Australia, which increases the threat of wildfire and crop reductions. On the other hand, South America and the eastern Pacific get more rain than normal, which leads to flooding and landslides.
An El Nino year can spell disaster for the world’s food supply. As crops fail due to lack of rain or flooding, food prices tend to climb. In the ocean, currents that draw fish in with nutrients tend to shift, which can move a fish supply from one country to another’s water, resulting in battles over fishing zones. The good news is that increased understanding of El Nino, gives governments time to plan ahead for the impact. The bad news is that, while El Nino isn’t caused by global warming, the changing climate can make El Nino years worse and more frequent.