Record El Nino, climate change drive extreme weatherStaff writer ▼ | December 30, 2015
Deadly extreme weather on at least five continents is driven in large part by a record-breaking El Nino, but climate change is a likely booster too, experts said.
Climate The 2015-2016 El Nino is the strongest ever measured
"It is probably the most powerful in the last 100 years," said Jerome Lecou, a climate expert at the French weather service Meteo France, noting that accurate measurements have only existed since the mid-20th century.
Flooding and mudslides unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 10 people and driven more than 150,000 from their homes in Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay in recent days.
In central and southwestern United States—where temperatures in Texas are forecast to drop from a balmy 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday to zero (32 F) on Monday—clashing weather fronts have given rise to snow-packed blizzards, freezing rain and a spate of tornadoes that have claimed at least 43 lives.
Across the Pacific, meanwhile, wildfires in Australia fanned by high temperatures and super-dry conditions have engulfed more than 100 homes outside Melbourne, with hundreds more threatened.
Across south and southeast Asia, monsoon rains essential for life-sustaining crops have been limited, while drought in eastern Africa means millions will require food aid, especially in Ethiopia, according to Oxfam.
El Ninos, which emerge every four to seven years on average and run from October through January, are triggered by a shift in trade winds across the Pacific around the equator. ■