El Niño and its equivalent La Nina are complex weather events that periodically arise due to fluctuations in sea temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These warm (El Nino) and cold (La Nina) periodically move across the Pacific Ocean to the east and west, respectively. It can bring climate change from floods and droughts to heatwaves and winter seasons around the world. New research led by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin says an ancient climate like this could return to the Indian Ocean due to climate change.
This will probably exacerbate the devastating events of floods, storms, and droughts in already vulnerable populations due to the impact of our Earth’s climate emergency. The periodic meaning of this El Nino-like pattern means these extreme weather events can become more regular. Using computer simulations that took into account current climate trends, the researchers found that as global temperatures changed, so did surface temperatures across the Indian Ocean. Although ocean temperatures now vary slightly, the simulations show that the fluctuations appear to be similar to those seen in the El Niño event.
Pedro DiNezio, a climate scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and lead author of the Science Advances study, said in a statement, “Our research has shown that an increase or decrease of average global temperature by just a few degrees tends to move the Indian Ocean in the same way as other tropical oceans, with less uniform surface temperatures across the equator, more variable climate and its own El Niño.”
In 2019, this climate existed in the Indian Ocean about 21,000 years ago. The fossils of the old Forum shell revealed evidence of an ice-age Indian Ocean El Niño as the Earth cooled. Although we now live in a warm world, the simulations of how air and sea currents are affected by both conditions seem to have been similar.
The situation in the Indian Ocean has been stabilized with the help of light winds blowing from west to east. However, the simulations showed that global warming could destabilize the oceans and re-awaken pendants such as El Niño for warming and cooling. Since the evidence suggests that the Indian Ocean is capable of many wild climate patterns, new extreme possibilities are emerging even more. In particular, barriers to rainfall in East Africa and Asia raise significant concerns for those dependent on regular rainfall to increase their food supply.
Michael McPhaden, a physical oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in the study, said, “If greenhouse gas emissions continue their ongoing trend towards the end of the century, extreme climatic events will hit countries around the Indian Ocean, such as Indonesia, Australia, and East Africa, with increasing intensity.” “Many developing countries in the region are at high risk of such extreme events, even in a modern climate.”
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