The term El Nino for most people is now identical with a phenomenon that hit a lot of countries and more than 60 million people in the world with devastating and far-reaching impacts of natural disasters. Since 2015, the world has witnessed the most impactful El Nino occurrence with countries like Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific stricken by its impacts. A lot of damage has been seen because people were not ready for what was coming to them. Officials couldn’t figure out earlier how impactful the year’s El Nino to certain regions.
Description of El Nino
Before we jump in deeper to the topic, it’s important to know that El Nino is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean which has a global impact on weather patterns. The term El Nino was given by Peruvian fishermen to a warm current that appeared each year around around Christmas time.
El Nino these days is identical with a stronger version of the same event. In fact, only since 1960s the world started to realize that El Nino did not just occur in Peru but it is also related to the changes over the entire tropical Pacific and even beyond. Now, El Nino is basically known as a mega-event of unconnected unusual weather event around the world.
Scientists use the term El Nino to refer the phenomenon of the warm phase of a large warm oscillation in the water and atmosphere in Pacific region. The complete phase is called El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Nino bring in the warm phase which typically last around 8 to 10 months even though the entire ENSO cycle could last around three until seven years.
The entire cycle also usually includes a cold phase called La Nina which is pretty much just as strong, as well as some years that are also neither unusually cold nor hot.
How to El Nino occurred
The abnormal weather pattern of El Nino is caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, just off the coast of South America. The cycle starts when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean moves eastward along the equator towards the coast of South America. Ordinarily, this warm water puddles somewhere near Indonesia and the Philippines. But during El Nino, this warmest surface water perches offshore of northwestern South America.
Because of the shift, the warm water displaces the cooler water that is usually found near the surface of the eastern Pacific. This then leads to some atmospheric changes that affect weather patterns in a lot of parts in the world. At present, no one, not even scientists fully understand what exactly is the cause of this changes in the ENSO cycle.
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No one really knows the cause of the weakening or the reverse of normal trade winds which then leads the warm water that is usually found in the western Pacific flow towards the east part instead.
To get into the more detailed explanations, there are some even more specific and detailed information of how to prevent El Nino effects.
See also: Climate of the Ocean
1. Food and Agriculture
Of all sectors of the economy, agriculture is the one that could be severely affected by El Nino. Drought can be said as the main threat to food production, but heavy rains, flooding, and extremely hot or cold weather caused by El Nino are also pretty much as dangerous.
Those things could trigger the animal disease outbreaks, like food borne diseases and zoonosis, as well as forest fires and plant pests. It has also been proven from the previous events that livelihoods that depend on fisheries have been severely affected in certain coastal areas.
From the previous events, especially the ones occurred in 1997-1998, it is clear that El Nino brings difficulties to farmers in a lot of parts of the Pacific which is affected by drought or drier than normal conditions.
This is why farmers should be planning far ahead to prepare for the worst by planting drought resistant crops that could adapt to long periods of dryness as option how to prevent el nino.
These plants include wild yams, African yams, dalo ni tana, cassava, giant taro, moringa, bananas, and okra or drought tolerant trees like coconut, breadfruit, and mango. Since usually fruit trees fruit heavily when the climate dries even further, it would be helpful if people preserve this fruit for future use so it doesn’t go to waste.
See also: Ocean Problems
Multi-store cropping system also helps people getting through the limited rainfall days. Not many people know that land underneath coconut trees is actually can be used to plant additional crops.
It can be used more productively also by growing them in different heights with different root systems and provide more diverse food when drought hits the region. For example, we can plant food such as papaya and pineapple under coconut trees since it’s dry there.
Other than that, we could also effectively fight back the limited water supplies by drip irrigation, mulching, and composting which can provide additional nutrients for the plants to survive. As a tip, water the crops late in the day so it will reduce evaporation and install of Tippy Taps to improve hygiene and reduce waste.
Not just affecting food supplies on land, El Nino also affect fish stocks and distribution because of the changed water temperatures. This is why it is important to start planning for different fishing activities.
For example, it is predicted that El Nino this year is likely to push tuna fisheries towards the central Pacific, specifically towards the exclusive economic zones of Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Tokelau, and away from fishing grounds of Papua New Guinea, Palau, and Solomon Islands. This is why alternative fishing activities is needed.
See also: Global Warming in Ocean
2. Health Preparations
El Nino could severely affect the health of the people depends on the countermeasures. The extent of these impacts depend on the vulnerability of the populations and national capacity.
Its including how the health systems of the region prepare and respond. Most diseases and deaths caused by El Nino are related to weather-related disasters such as droughts, cyclones, and floods. Outbreaks of some diseases are associated with those extreme weather events most of the time.
Droughts could cause individual heat stress which may significantly diminish hydropower capacity and may then reduce electricity available to health facilities. Cyclone activity and flooding could also cause significant loss of life and other possible health and psycho-social effects.
See also: Marine Energy
On the other hand, drought and flooding usually trigger food insecurity which then will possibly lead to the increase malnutrition and enhance vulnerability to infectious diseases. Damaged sanitation infrastructure also increase water and vector borne infectious diseases.
Poor air and water quality could also trigger new exacerbate existing physical and mental health conditions. On top of that, extended rainfall and floods could also destroy hospitals, clinics, and roads which then restrict the access to these healthcare. Some countries have been severely affected with those conditions. In Indonesia, widespread drought leads to dust impacted food security, fire risk, and low air quality.
See also: Effects of Ocean Currents
Meanwhile, in Eastern Africa, widespread economic losses including agriculture leads to extensive destruction of health facilities and the outbreak of human and animal vector borne diseases like malaria. Meanwhile, in western Pacific countries such as Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands experience droughts which then leads to diarrhoeal diseases due to scarcity of potable water and infectious respiratory illnesses.
To prevent these negative impacts on health, health authorities in those countries should do deeper analysis of historic climate and health data of El Nino events. There should be research and climate risk assessments to provide helpful information and plannings.
Sub populations like aged persons, people with disability, pregnant women, children and those with chronic health conditions should be identified specifically since their health status contributes to greater health risks.
They should also step up their preparedness to tend the most likely risk areas. It is important to promote dialogue with health actors, partner organizations at all levels, national meteorological agencies, and disaster management organizations.
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3. Hygienic Water
There are actually some ways to cope with drought and lack of clean water caused by El Nino. In drought situations especially, people may have to travel further to access water from unfamiliar source which may also affect their safety and security. When water supply is inadequate, these activities will become also more difficult since limited water is needed for drinking and cooking.
To reduce more water consumption and wastage at the household level, people have to know their usage. People can be more critical like taking notes on their water meter, record the amount they use then try to reduce it. Some little things like stopping water leaks by fixing leaky taps and pipes is critical when stuck in this situations.
Make sure to repair your leaking faucets, shower, and toilets. To make sure your toilet tank still works well, you should put food coloring in there and wait for at least five minutes. If it colors your bowl, then there must be a leak in your toilet tank which should be fixed.
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Don’t forget to save more water by reusing existing water. Collect rainwater from roof gutters and reuse dishwashing, laundry, and bath water to flush the toilet and wash cars. When washing cars, use a dipper and a pail of the reused water. It is important to pay attention to children too since they are usually the biggest water users. If water plants is needed, do it in early morning or late afternoon to minimize evaporation.
4. Shelter Preparation
Whether it is drought or cyclones, it is important to make sure the preparedness of our house. Most roofs are built to support the weight of two feet of snow. However, before cyclones or snowy weather hits this winter, it is important to head outside and inspect the house’s roof from the ground for warning signs of damage, aging, and sagging.
Moreover, do a second inspection to look for any spots that snow build-up or high snowdrifts. Look more for sagging areas which is the most obvious indicator that there is probably too much weight on your roof.
In areas of drought, it is important to have properly functioning roofs and rainwater harvesting systems which could contribute to local level resilience to El Nino by acting as a valuable source of water collection and storage.
People have to make sure their roofs are secure and free from potential water contaminants. It is important to make sure gutters are secured and still functions. If you don’t have a rainwater harvesting system, identify where water runs off your roof and consider what containers or buckets you could use to capture some water when it rains.
See also: Acidification of the Ocean
5. Evacuation Area
This step has to be built between the government and the people. This could also be considered as the last thing to do when avoiding El Nino if the previous couldn’t contain the level of risk the phenomenon blast. Governments have to be communicative to the people when certain areas are in risk of getting stuck in huge storm. They have to provide people secure accommodation, in an area further inland and on higher ground.
Other than special medical needs, access to power, clean water, and oxygen, the government has to help their people with emergency kits too. The emergency kit could include dry-goods such as flour, rice, sugar, tea or powdered milk, as well as canned food.
Emergency supplies like matches, candles, plastic bags, a first aid kit, a water container, soap and toilet paper are also needed. The most important thing is, governments have to be informative about emergency warnings and lead their people in following official advices.
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Other Way to Prevent
- The government must make early warning to community around to make preparations in all sectors.
- Prepare food staples to anticipate food famine. it purposes is for prevent people starving if El Nino occurred.
- Farmers must increase their stocks of rice and staples crops production to reach their targets.
- Acceleration and pursuing the planting period in various regions.
- Develop rice varieties which can be planted in every areas with various water volume.
- Use wetlands or swamp areas for other option to planting.
- Keep ensure the warehouse or barn to remain surplus so it can be maintained.
- Check every sectors. Such as immigration ducts, reservoirs, and also situations. As well as area works well to deal when El Nino comes.
Effects of El Nino
El Nino has its main impacts occur in and around the Tropics. El Nino can cause severe storms and flooding along the Pacific coast of Americas. Of all countries there, Ecuador and Peru usually receive the brunt of the force of El Nino. During the months of April until October specifically, those regions experiences increased rainfall. Usually, along the coast of Peru, cool and nutrient filled deep water which is the food source of marine life climbs up to the surface off the Pacific coast.
However, during El Nino season instead of cold water, warm water which lacks nutrients appear in the surface. This ruins the food chain of marine life and leads to the lack of fisheries for the people.
Other than impacting the marine life, there is also a drastic increase in the risk of flooding on the western coast of South America. On the contrary, there is an increase in the risk of droughts on some parts of the eastern coast of the region. Not only in South America, there is also an increase droughts caused by El Nino in some eastern countries like India and Indonesia. This of course has some of the most dreadful effects in the life of the people in those regions.
Read also: Ocean Phenomena
Increase Rainfall amount
The general weather of those regions also gets affected just as much. Generally, El Nino causes cast amount of rainfall in the eastern parts of the Pacific which is the western coast of South America. Meanwhile, in the western parts like again, India and Indonesia, get affected by much drier weather days. These, on top of the floodings and droughts, have been proven affecting the agriculture of the said regions and even the health of the people.
Causes Global Warming
El Nino also contributes in increasing the risk of global warming. Since there is an extra extensive amount of heat at the surface of the Pacific Ocean, more energy is of course released into the atmosphere. This then leads to an overall warming of the global climate temporarily. This also has been proven by the study which reveals in the years in which El Nino occurs, the temperature across the globe tend to increase.
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Although El Nino is capable of badly impacting our life with natural disasters, there is nothing that can be done to stop its effects on the weather or on the people around the world. We can’t avoid these natural calamities because humans have no direct ability to influence the onset, intensity, or duration.
Even in previous time when the world’s environment did not have as much pollution as today’s, El Nino and La Nina was already happening.
See also: Effects of Sea Level Rise
However, since the phenomenon can typically be noticed by meteorologists, people, especially those living in the countries affected by El Nino could actually take measures in order to curb some of the impacts. People there are required to take some necessary steps to protect themselves, whether it be preparing for floods or droughts. This also could include stocking up on water in the case of a drought.
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Other than that, people living in the usually most affected regions have to make sure their homes are able to handle flood waters. Because of the effect on many important crops in these countries, some steps for preparation might also include stocking up on these crops in preparation for the droughts or for damage caused by the flooding.
Those are complete explanation of how to prevent El Nino.