Jul 01 2014

What’s Ahead Weatherwise? El Niño!

The World Meteorological Organization says an El Niño is likely in the third quarter of 2014.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific.

The phenomenon, which recurs at two- to seven-year intervals, has a major impact on the climate around the world. It can also lead to extremes including droughts and heavy rainfall across the globe.

World Meteorological Organization Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch Director Maxx Dilley said sometimes these conditions can be quite extreme.

“You have parts of the world, which experience dryer than normal conditions as a tendency during El Niño years,” Dilley said. “You have other parts of the world, which tend to get wetter. You have parts of the world that tend to get hotter and parts that tend to get colder. So, the effects can vary depending on which region you pick.”

Excerpted from InsideCostaRica.com.

El NiñoBut how did the last El Niño affect Costa Rica? The last one occurred in 2009, right around when we arrived in Costa Rica. We got here on April 1st, 2009 at the beginning of the rainy season. That year’s rainy season, from May through October, was one of the driest on record, with 40% less rainfall than normal. It was warmer than normal as well.

Why would a lack of rainfall be so negative for Costa Rica? The main reason is the resevoirs. They need to be replenished annually through rainfall to guarantee hydro-electric power to supply electricity to the country. Without it, Costa Rica must import more oil to drive the turbines that create electricity, instead of using the power of flowing water. Without rain, electricity prices will rise along with the price of oil in dollars (which are also rising). So there you have it in a nutshell. Less rain, more oil imports, higher prices for electricity as well as products and foods where electricity plays an important part in their production. And it’s all the fault of El Niño. It will last less than a year but it’s effects will be felt in Costa Rica and worldwide for some time to come.

We’re already feeling the effects of El Niño as in May and June we’ve had lower than normal rainfall. We are also just about to come into the Veranillo de San Juan (“little summer”) in Costa Rica when it often rains less, schools close for two weeks, and many people take vacations. The veranillo, which usually occurs in July, can last as little as one day or last all month and beyond.


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