Thursday, March 17, 2016

El Niño: Preparing now for disasters later

For much of this year, some of the world’s most vulnerable people have found themselves in the grip of El Niño, a profound and confounding natural disaster that brings with it severe floods, severe drought and, potentially, more intense and more frequent cyclones. Arriving every three to seven years to warm parts of the Pacific – in turn affecting weather systems around the globe – El Niño is anything but benign, as it builds on an already changing climate and strains the ability of millions of people to cope. This time, it has been cited as one of the strongest El Niños the world has seen in nearly a century. The result – severe floods in some parts of the world and drastic droughts in others – has hit many millions hard. In the Horn of Africa, about 20 million people are at risk of starvation or hunger as drought takes hold. Floods in parts of southern Africa and Latin America have also been devastating. Some countries, like Angola, have actually seen droughts and floods at the same time within their borders. While El Niño has started to decline in strength, the danger is not over. El Niño will continue to have a strong impact, and, even when that has passed, the world may witness La Niña – another potentially devastating weather event that frequently follows El Niño. Together, they may continue to exert their grip for as long as two years...more

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