Why is this summer so much hotter than usual in some places or colder than usual in some places? Well, the answer lies with the ever more powerful weather patterns of El Niño and La Niña. El Niño or “little boy” is a term used to describe the climate interaction associated with the gradual warming of the pacific ocean which results in hotter and wetter conditions across the Americas and hotter, drier conditions affecting Australia, Indonesia and other pacific islands.5 Conversely La Niña or “little girl” causes drier, colder conditions in the west pacific and colder, wetter weather in the east pacific. While these weather patterns are normal and were first noticed in the 1600’s by sailors off the coast of South America, each cycle has become more and more extreme, which accounts for some of the temperature shifts not only in areas bordering the pacific but all over the world.4 El Niño and La Niña patterns cycle back and forth, occurring irregularly every two to seven years. In this last year, we have been experiencing the effects of El Niño which is readily apparent due to the increased rainfall and temperatures across North and South America.
So why are these weather patterns becoming more extreme? Part of the answer lies in the quickly disappearing rainforests of South America. Rainforests play a crucial role in regulating rainfall patterns across the globe and in combating climate change through their sequestration of carbon. To give an example, the Peruvian Amazon alone stores nearly seven billion metric tonnes of carbon.3 Due to the incredible rate of rainforest deforestation, the role rainforests play in cooling the air has slowed down significantly and created large masses of hot air that rise and hit the atmosphere and spread out, causing worldwide changes in climate that is most pronounced in the pacific area as these masses of warm air make the effects of El Niño even more extreme.3 This is a huge contributing factor to why cities all over North and South America continue to have summer after summer of “the hottest summer on record” and places like Texas that had been previously been in a significant drought has received record amounts of rain in the past year, almost completely ending the drought.2 While this may not necessarily seem like a bad thing, the more the rainforests are cut down, the more extreme these weather patterns like El Niño and La Niña will become, causing massive flooding in parts of the world and intense drought in other parts in shifting patterns. In addition, deforestation of this scale will not only contribute indirectly by not being able to convert and store carbon but will directly contribute by failing to cool the air above forested areas and causing huge heat waves which will continue to give the world “hottest summers on record.”
The solution? Help end the destruction of the rainforests. Not only will this solve the problem of increasingly extreme weather patterns, but it will also let the forests store the carbon heating up our world, and help regulate temperatures worldwide. By saving rainforests, we can save ourselves from summer after summer of “the hottest summer on record” and I don’t know about you, but I’m sweaty enough already.
- “Deforestation.” WorldWildlife.org. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 22 June 2016.
- Fenimore, Chris. “National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.” Drought Information. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 16 June 2016. Web. 22 June 2016.
- Mcsweeney, Robert. “Deforestation in the Tropics Affects Climate around the World, Study Finds – Carbon Brief.” Carbon Brief. Carbon Brief, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 22 June 2016.
- “What Are El Niño and La Niña?” What Are El Niño and La Niña? National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d. Web. 22 June 2016.
- “What Is El Niño?” NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) |. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d. Web. 22 June 2016.
- Wintertime Pattern: El Niño. N.d. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Web.