El Nino stays strong, experts fear impact on winter, 2024

ByJayashree Nandi
Sep 22, 2023 01:49 AM IST

Between January and August, global land and ocean temperatures were 1.06°C above the base period of 1991 to 2020.

New Delhi: There is about a 95% chance that 2023 will be the warmest or the second-warmest year on record, a key US government agency said in a briefing on Thursday and warned that several more months — possibly stretching into 2024 — could continue the heat trend thanks to the El Nino weather pattern remaining strong.

A tourist shelters from the sun with a panel as she walks past the Colosseum monument in Rome, on July 24 during a heatwave in Italy. (AFP)
A tourist shelters from the sun with a panel as she walks past the Colosseum monument in Rome, on July 24 during a heatwave in Italy. (AFP)

Between January and August, global land and ocean temperatures were 1.06°C above the base period of 1991 to 2020, making it the second warmest January to August period in history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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“Nobody knows when this is going to end but El Nino is still strengthening. As a result of that, we expect heat to continue for the rest of 2023 with a 95% chance of this being the warmest or second warmest year on record. It’s possible that 2024 could be even warmer than 2023. We anticipate to be in this record category globally for several months to come,” said Karin Gleason, monitoring section chief, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

READ | El Nino develops, experts wary of poor monsoon spell

El Nino, a periodic but unusual warming of the waters in the equatorial Pacific region, has a cascading impact around the world, including in India where it saps the monsoon rains. El Nino conditions are expected to continue through the upcoming Winter, with a 95% chance of it remaining in place for January to March, 2024, and around a 70% chance of a strong El Nino being in place for the November-December-January period, the scientists from NOAA said.

Gleason, when asked on what this means for the critical 1.5°C average warming threshold being breached, told HT: “We don’t really deal with predictions as to how far it will go but we know it has been warm and have been exceeding previous margins significantly the last couple of months. We are reaching certain months that are exceeding 1°C. We are watching that closely.”

Global land and ocean temperatures in August were 1.25°C higher compared to 1991 to 2020 base period, warmest in 174 years and global land temperature alone was a record 1.72°C above the base period, NOAA stated.

READ | El Nino effect pushes global monthly mean ocean temp to all-time high

The June and August months together were also the warmest since 1850, with land temperature alone recording 1.51°C above the 1991-2020 base period. East and Peninsular India recorded land temperatures warmest ever during June and August, NOAA indicated in its map.

Above average sea surface temperatures are being observed across most of the Pacific Ocean near the equator — the oceanic and atmospheric observations currently reflect El Nino conditions.“Right now, in tropical Pacific the sea surface temp are 1.6°C above normal, and it’s already above the threshold for a strong event. Going ahead a strong event is more likely than not,” said Scott Handel, Meteorologist, NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

The record heat is comes at a time of flagging global momentum to limit warming to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C goal. HT reported on Thursday that UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the world is heading towards 2.8°C of warming if global leaders do not act now.

He was addressing the UN Climate Ambition Summit, where major emitters such as the United States, China, UK and India were notably absent.

But, several heads of states and cities demanded action on fossil fuels at the summit. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom said: “This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It’s not complicated. It’s the burning of oil. It’s the burning of gas. It’s the burning of coal. And we need to call that out. For decades and decades, the fossil fuel industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools.”

Gabriel Boric, President of Chile said: “The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis, so we need to leave fossil fuels behind. That in very specific terms means we must react to the greenwashing that major businesses are undertaking. They continue with that greenwashing and they’re stepping it up, and in some cases their greenwashing efforts are supported by countries.”

COP 28 President Designate, Sultan Al Jaber said during the summit on Wednesday: “We know the size of the problem. The numbers are straightforward: 22 gigatons. That’s the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we need to cut in the next seven years to keep 1.5°C within reach.”

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