More El Niño Heat Waves Expected in the Future


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As high temperatures continue to scorch much of Australia this week, researchers are warning that particularly harsh summers could become more normal in the future.

A new study published this week in Nature Climate Change predicts that hot El Niño- related weather will happen more frequently as the Earth continues to warm. The study's authors predict that these types of weather events could happen up to twice as often as they currently do.

"We currently experience an unusually strong El Niño event every 20 years," said Agus Santoso, a co-author of the paper and a researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate system Science. "Our research shows this will double to one event every 10 years."

According to the study, these "extreme" EL Niño weather events stem from higher temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This in turn creates drastic shifts in global rainfall, affecting weather patterns throughout the world.

The study's authors looked at 20 separate climate models that simulate El Niño-related rainfall patterns. When taking a continued warming trend into account they found that related extreme weather events could increase for at least the next 100 years.

"The question of how global warming will change the frequency of extreme El Niño events has challenged scientists for more than 20 years," said Mike McPhaden, a co-author on the paper and a researcher at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "This research is the first comprehensive examination of the issue to produce robust and convincing results,"