Record-High Ocean Surface Temperatures Could Trigger El Niño And More Extreme Weather

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has predicted that El Niño is on its way this fall, due to soaring ocean temperatures. The anomaly is likely to disrupt weather patterns and cause more extreme weather in the US and across the world. Forecasters suggest that the pattern may change rainfall patterns, increase average air temperatures and fuel more intense storm systems. El Niño will combine with climate change to raise air and sea temperatures still further, with a significant detrimental impact anticipated. In June, sea surface temperatures hit levels not seen for four decades.

John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas says that rising surface temperatures add moisture and heat to the atmosphere intensifying weather patterns resulting in extreme weather. El Niño and the broader trend of rising global temperatures are likely to lead to record temperatures and increase the harm caused by climate change.

The globe has experienced a La Niña trend for the previous three years, which has had a moderating effect. However, the WMO has now forecast an 80% chance of El Niño arriving by September 2018.

El Niño is generally associated with cooler, wetter weather in the southern half of the US and warmer weather in the north. The forthcoming phenomenon could lead to a prolonged dry season in parts of the US such as the Ohio River Valley. Ocean temperatures in turn are calculated by machines that monitor temperature movement in the sea. Rising sea temperatures indicate the beginning of the El Niño.

Ocean waters retain much more of the energy produced by human warming than the atmosphere does. More than 90% of the energy imbalance caused by human activity is absorbed by the oceans. This means that the rising temperatures are creating a significant issue for people, agriculture and societies, rather than just animals such as seals or polar bears.

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography say that ocean heat content is the most important metric in predicting climate change because the added heat is largely contained beneath the sea surface. “Ocean heat content is the most important metric we should be paying attention to when we think about climate change because it’s really at the heart of what this global imbalance is,” said Sarah Purkey, assistant professor of physical oceanography. Within the ocean, scientists have found an unwavering warming trend.

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