ADVERTISEMENT

Drought, food shortages and deadly heat: El Niño has ended but its impacts are still being felt

Residents line up to collect water from a truck during water rationing in La Calera, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia.
Residents line up to collect water from a truck during water rationing in La Calera, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. Copyright AP Photo/Fernando Vergara
Copyright AP Photo/Fernando Vergara
By Rosie Frost
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

El Niño has been changing global weather patterns with deadly consequences around the world.

ADVERTISEMENT

Australia’s weather bureau has said the El Niño weather event has now ended as temperatures appear to have “cooled substantially” in the last week.

The naturally occurring phenomenon began in June last year bringing warmer waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

March was the tenth month in a row where the world set a new monthly record for heat, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

While climate scientists attribute most of the heat to human-caused climate change, they say the consecutive records aren’t exactly surprising given the strong El Niño conditions.

Temperatures over the next few months will indicate just how much recent records are down to global warming. But, bringing marine heatwaves across large parts of the world’s oceans, the phenomenon has been changing global weather patterns with deadly consequences.

Drought and electricity rationing in South America

El Niño usually causes lower rainfall in South America. Over the last few months, it has brought record temperatures and drought with some countries having to introduce emergency measures.

In Ecuador, droughts linked to El Niño have led to electricity rationing. Hydroelectricity produces around three-quarters of the country’s power and with reservoirs running low, supplies are short.

“Each kilowatt and each drop of water that are not consumed will help us face this reality,” Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy said on Tuesday.

A man stands on the exposed banks of the Mazar reservoir, in the Azuay province of Ecuador.
A man stands on the exposed banks of the Mazar reservoir, in the Azuay province of Ecuador.AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua

It comes just days after dry weather in Colombia forced water rationing in its capital city Bogotá. Reservoirs have also reached record lows here, threatening supplies of tap water.

The city’s Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán said homes which use more than 22 cubic metres of water per month will have to pay additional fees and those wasting water could face fines.

Colombia also relies heavily on hydropower and stopped exporting energy to Ecuador in early April to conserve domestic supplies. Wildfires have been raging around the country’s capital during the extended hot, dry spell.

Is El Niño to blame for drought and extreme heat in Africa?

A deadly heatwave swept across West Africa and the Sahel last month with temperatures soaring above 48C in Mali.

New research from World Weather Attribution (WWA) suggests that climate change made temperatures up to 1.5C warmer in Mali and Burkina Faso. During the entire five-day heatwave, temperatures across the Sahel region were up by 1.4C due to global warming, WWA says.

The report adds that, while people in both countries are acclimated to high temperatures, the length and severity of the heatwave made it more difficult for them to cope. Power cuts also compounded its effects.

Though El Niño did have some influence on extreme temperatures, it was small when compared to human-induced climate change.

Earlier this year, low rainfall also caused crop failure in southern Africa. Aid agency Oxfam warned that more than 20 million people were facing hunger, malnutrition and water scarcity because of the drought. Water shortages in Zimbabwe and Zambia led to disastrous outbreaks of cholera.

This drought, experts say, is more likely to have been a result of El Niño. The peak of the weather phenomenon in December reduced rainfall across southern Africa between December and February.

Heat triggers state of emergency and school closures in Southeast Asia

Searing heat has also been causing problems across Southeast Asia.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier this month, Vietnam declared a state of emergency due to high temperatures. In the Philippines, hundreds of schools closed as parts of the country reached 42C. Thailand has been suffering from unusually high temperatures, breaking records for 13 months straight.

The death of a toddler in Malaysia during a heatwave has highlighted the health risks of climate change.

Vendors arrange mangoes under umbrellas to shield them from the scorching sun in Quezon city, Philippines.
Vendors arrange mangoes under umbrellas to shield them from the scorching sun in Quezon city, Philippines.AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Meteorologists have attributed much of the unusually long dry spells and heat to El Niño but our warming world is also playing a part. Natural meteorological events are likely being exacerbated by higher temperatures.

In Singapore, experts have said high heat is expected to continue into 2024 with the lingering effects of the climate phenomenon.

“Since the warmest annual temperatures from any El Niño events typically occur the year after an El Niño forms both for Singapore and globally, 2024 could be an even warmer year,” the Meteorological Service Singapore said in its annual climate assessment report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Share this articleComments

You might also like