With the forthcoming of climate change, the earth’s environment has changed in ways of which has never been seen before. This alteration in temperature has been the principal cause of events such as the mass wildfires seen in California, to the hurricanes ripping along the East North American coast. Amongst the aspects influenced by this variation in climate, the global surface wind currents stands as one of the most affected; more specifically, the Equatorial currents of the pacific. Within this article, it will be shown how exactly the climate has altered these major wind belts and what that means for the world.
Before heading into the precise details, it is important to understand what exactly these changes are. Typically the wind belt moves from east to west, carrying colder air from the South American coast towards Oceania and Eastern Asia. Typically, this movement of air will result in two geographical events. The first being the precipitation over the Japanese archipelago, and the second being the circulation of the air over the Northern Atlantic. This circulation occurs due to the rising of air, as warm air being less dense than cold air will naturally rise above it before moving towards North America, where it then cools and enters the air circulation cycle again. This pattern is known as Walker circulation and is a major aspect of the global winds. Due to changes in temperature, surface temperature and more these conditions are subject to change. One of the most famed changes is known as El Niño. In El Niño, the typical current carrying wind from East to West dies down. As a result warm water typically found in Oceania can be carried back across the pacific towards the South American continent. With warm water being found further across the pacific, it is then evident that El Niño is associated with the warming of the surface temperatures, with changes of around 0.5 degrees celsius over the course of a three to five month period acting as an indicator. The second version is La Niña. In this variation rather than the winds getting weaker, they actually increase in strength. This results in a further disparity between the cold and hot regions of the earth as all the warm water is pushed further east by the surface currents. This change in energy distribution can lead to all kinds of side effects from drought in the Americas, to more intense weather events. In conjunction, the changing from El Niño to La Niña is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) with La Niña being the cooling side and El Niño being the warming side.
Now that the processes themselves are known, the important thing is understanding their place in the bigger picture of climate change. The two phenomena depend on wind and water temperatures like how the success of a picnic depends on local weather forecasts– strongly related, but the environmental dependents are often hard to model and impossible to project due to enormous amount of certainty. For such a large-scale climate cycle, El Nino, La Nina, and ENSO as a whole will certainly be impacted by climate change– what puzzles scientists now is exactly how that will happen. “We have to think climate change will influence El Niño in some way and will impact its impacts,” said NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “But how El Niño events themselves change because of global warming? It’s hard to say, and harder to observe because there is so much variation in El Niño by itself from decade to decade. It’s a tough question to answer.” A 2014 study predicts that Super El Nino events– of added destruction and environmental impacts– will increase in frequency, from occurring every 20 years to just 10 years. Other models offer varying answers on climate change and its influence on the ENSO. Some predicts a weakening of El Nino and its counterpart; while others predict a strengthening of the phenomena or even relatively little change. Whether it be weakening, strengthening, or Super El Ninos increasing in frequency, changes will pose challenges to the residents of affected regions and their livelihoods. The weakening of El Nino will cool the waters of the Western South American coasts and score heavy hits on local fishing industries… but strengthening of El Nino may intensify precipitation and typhoons to the point of catastrophic flooding. Locals are faced with a dilemma– and are entirely under the mercy of a seemingly unstoppable force of nature.
As climate change continues its advance, age-old cycles of nature are thrown into upheavals. With El Nino and La Nino already being blunt in their impacts, and with their storms and droughts dictating so many livelihoods, the future of our survivals are again called into question. Will we stop climate change’s effects in their tracks, adapt to the increasingly ruthless wind, fire, and rain; or let them consume us? El Nino and La Nina will only be another indicator– another flashing light in a sea of noises– to just what our futures will hold.