A former United Nations climate scientist has told a Malaysian news outlet that there’s no evidence man-made global warming was behind the incredibly strong El Niño that was a major force behind the record warmth experienced in 2015.
“There is no conclusive evidence that the occurrence of El Niño (frequency and intensity) is influenced by climate change,” Dr. Fredolin Tangang, a climatologist at the University Kebangsaan Malaysia. who also served as vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2008 to 2015, told the new site Malaysiakini.
“El Niño is a naturally occurring phenomenon, which is part of the inter-annual variability associated with oscillation of the atmosphere-ocean interaction in the Pacific Ocean that occurs in a two- to seven-year cycle,” Tanang said.
“This system oscillates and it can be either in El Niño, La Niña or normal phases,” he said.
Government climate agencies recently declared 2015 the hottest year on record, outpacing 2014, which was previously the hottest year on record. Climate scientists said temperatures were driven up in 2015 largely due to an incredibly powerful El Niño that formed an drastically warmed up ocean temperatures.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said the “warmth was due to the near-record strong El Niño that developed during the Northern Hemisphere spring in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean and to large regions of record warm and much warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in parts of every major ocean basin.”
When news hit that 2015 was the warmest year on record, media outlets ran stories about how climate scientists were freaking out about how hot it was. One climate scientists was even reported to have said humanity was “in a kind of climate emergency now.”
What went largely unmentioned, however, was the large effect El Niño had on global temperatures in 2015 and the early months of 2016. The current El Niño, which is showing signs of dissipating, is said to the strongest such event in 18 years as it warms up ocean temperatures in the Pacific.
El Niño is a naturally-occurring warming phase across the span of the Pacific Ocean along the equator. It occurs fairly regularly, about every two to seven years, and if often followed by a La Niña cooling phase.
It’s not clear how much of global average temperature can be attributed to current El Niño, but some scientists say it has a huge impact on global temperatures — though most say the main culprit behind the hottest year on record was man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
“Hot temperatures will persist for a few months after El Niño peaks, so this is to be expected,” Agus Santoso, a senior research associate at Australia’s Climate Change Research Center, told The Wall Street Journal. “But underneath the impact of El Niño there is an underlying global warming trend, so the temperature keeps going up.”
Some scientists argue El Niño didn’t contribute a whole lot to global average temperature rise, but a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of estimates from two climate scientists found that without El Niño the record warmth reported in 2015 would have been statistically tied with 2014 for the warmest on record.
Even Tangang said that as the world warms, El Niño could become more influenced by human activities.
“In my opinion, the tele-connected effect in our region could be influenced by climate change because of the changes in moisture availability and changes in regional oceans that could affect the atmosphere-ocean interaction in the region,” Tangang said.
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