The coming weather shock to the global economy
Summary: With all the power our mastery of the physical sciences has given us, we often forget that we remain subject to the whims of nature. Earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids — and weather. Our recent obsession with climate change has blinded us to the ferocious impact of rare but normal weather patterns. Such as the second year of a La Nina about to hit the Pacific, creating ripples in the global economy.
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The nature and effects of even simple weather patterns can fill a book. Here’s a brief report about the effects of the La Nina about to hit the Pacific (the second year of this phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the ENSO). For several years people argued when I said that decadal weather cycles were a dominant form of climate activity, with effects far larger than the now century-long but very slow global warming. After last year I no longer hear such rebuttals. This year will we get another lesson for any remaining skeptics.
Lack of time prevents an adequate report. Links at the end go to more detailed websites. Here is the chain of casuality.
- The computer models used by the National Weather Service forecast more bad weather in the Pacific. A La Nina, perhaps worse than last year.
- That means the probability (not certainty) of bad harvests in the Eastern Pacific region.
- Forcing food prices to rise in East Asia, again.
- Creating higher inflation in East Asia (food comprises
1/4 to 1/3an average of 1/3 of emerging nations’ urban price baskets).
That could mean bad news. But current circumstances magnify La Nina’s effects.
- The Peoples Bank of China has been applying tight credit and tight money to fight too-high inflation.
- Spirits have lifted during the past two weeks on hints that the PBoC was slowly starting to ease.
- But rising inflation probably means no easing (or a long delay before easing). Update: China’s inflation, measured by the GDP deflator, was 10.3% in Q3.
- Asia was the only region which had good odds of fiscal stimulus and accelerating growth.
- Continued tight money means more slowing growth in China.
- So the global economic train may have no engine, with Japan, Europe, US, and Asia all in the doldrums.
By the way, forecasts for the Atlantic look even worse.
Stockpile peanut butter, as the drought in Texas and the Southeast might continue — or worsen.
The latest forecasts
From the US National Weather Service’s weekly ENSO report, 17 October 2011. The graph shows the anomaly vs the average for 1971-2000. It forecast roughly -2.0 for the December 2011 February 2012 quarter. Last year the low of the 3-month average was -1.4 for the periods ending from November 2010 to January 2011. The anomaly tends to seasonally trough around December.
For more information from the National Weather Service
- About the ENSO cycle
- Impacts of La Nina on the US
- Effects of La Nina on the tropical Pacific
- Weekly ENSO report
Other posts about weather and food
- The facts about the 1970’s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009
- Watching decadal swings in global climate (pretending to be anthropogenic global warming), 17 March 2011
- Important news about the global food crisis!, 1 April 2008
- A view from Indonesia of the food crisis, 3 April 2008
- Stratfor warns about the global food crisis, 18 April 2008
- What you probably do not know about China’s food crisis, 21 April 2008
- Higher food prices, riots, shortages – what is going on?, 29 April 2008
- A modest proposal for solving the global food crisis, 30 April 2008
- Weekend reading about the Food Crisis, 17 May 2008
- Is global food production peaking?, 13 January 2010
- About the coming large rise in food prices, 12 November 2010
- More about rising food prices (perhaps one of the big trends of the next decade), 13 November 2010
- Will food prices continue to rise, destabilizing the third world?, 31 January 2011 — About La Nina.
- Update about the potential for another year of bad harvests, 10 February 2011