Global warming may have spawned a new type of El Nińo in the central Pacific and this could worsen the droughts in Australia and India, a new study by researchers in South Korea and the United States has found.
While the conventional El Nińo is a warm body of water stretching across the tropical eastern Pacific, this new El Nińo is a horseshoe-shaped region of warm ocean in the central Pacific flanked by unusually cooler waters, they wrote in a paper published in the latest issue of Nature.
“This new type of El Nińo appeared in the recent decade and from our analysis, it may be due to global warming,” lead researcher Sang-Wook Yeh of the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute told Reuters by telephone.
Yeh and his colleagues applied Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature data from the past 150 years to 11 global warming models developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Eight of them showed global warming conditions will increase the incidence of the new El Nińo.
“The results described in this paper indicate that the global impacts of El Nińo may significantly change as the climate warms,” said Yeh.
“This type of El Nińo will bring more drought to Indi a and Australia.”
Ben Kirtman, co-author of the study and professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami’s Rosentstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said the new El Nińo may overshadow the old El Nińo, which helped shield the United States and Caribbean from severe hurricanes.
This means the protective shield of the old El Nińo may be on the wane.
“Currently, we are in the middle of a developing eastern Pacific El Nińo event, which is part of why we’re experiencing such a mild hurricane season in the Atlantic,” said Kirtman in a statement.
Kirtman expects the current El Nińo event to end next spring, which he expects may bode for a more intense Atlantic hurricane season in 2010.
Dust cover: A combination of two images of Sydney’s iconic Opera House, photographed at 6:15 a. m. (top) and 12:30 p. m. on September 23, 2009. A huge outback dust storm swept eastern Australia and blanketed Sydney, disrupting transport, forcing people indoors and stripping thousands of tonnes of valuable farmland topsoil.