Summary: Now that the El Niño appears to have peaked, journalists tell us how horrific the damage is so far (most of the effects on America lie ahead). Let’s see what they say — and what NOAA says. Spoiler: don’t believe the clickbait.
NOAA, conservative and accurate as usual, says in their Jan 14 El Niño Diagnostic Discussion that “El Niño has already produced significant global impacts and is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the upcoming months.”
Journalists jazz up the story. The Daily News reports that “Forecasters have revealed the catastrophic effects this year’s record breaking El Niño has had on weather around the world.” NBC News: “The El Niño currently wreaking havoc around the world is forecast to only worsen in 2016.” None of these give specifics, such as comparing this year vs. past averages or records.
The Guardian is, as usual, gives some of the most vivid weather porn.
“From some of the worst floods ever known in Britain, to record-breaking temperatures over the Christmas holiday in the US and forest fires in Australia, the link between the tumultuous weather events experienced around the world in the last few weeks is likely to be down to the natural phenomenon known as El Niño making the effects of man-made climate change worse, say atmospheric scientists.
“… The latest floods, droughts and extreme weather are what might be expected of a strong El Niño, according to the WMO. “Severe droughts and devastating flooding are being experienced throughout the tropics, and subtropical zones bear the hallmarks of this El Niño,” said the organisation’s chief, Michel Jarraud.
“… The widespread El Niño effects are now being felt in Africa, Latin America, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the WMO said. In Central America, one of the most severe droughts on record has left 3.5 million people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in need of food aid. The UN says that more than 2 million people have been affected in Peru and Ecuador.
“In Ethiopia, the government estimates that 10.2 million people will need help in 2016 at a cost of $1.4bn (£944m). Elsewhere in Africa, staple crops have been devastated in Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. Food shortages are expected to peak in southern Africa in February.
“… The warm Pacific temperatures have also led to a record number of hurricanes and cyclones. According to the US government’s national oceanic and atmospheric administration, there were 18 named storms in 2015, including 13 hurricanes, nine of which were category three or higher. This is the highest number recorded since reliable measurements started in 1971.”
How much of this results from the El Niño? How much is even true? A little research finds many holes in the story. Let’s start by checking The Guardian’s claims about regional extreme weather with NOAA’s International Climate Prediction Center.