Get ready to cross some more squares off your extreme weather bingo card, because El Niño is here.
Driving the news: El Niño—a weather phenomenon that shifts temperatures and intensifies climate conditions—is underway and likely to become unusually strong later in the year.
- This year’s El Niño is unprecedented, in that it’s colliding with the ongoing effects of climate change, like record-hot oceans, which could make it more severe.
Why it matters: Adding El Niño into the extreme weather mix will disrupt agricultural production around the world and could cause shortages that drive up food prices.
- A combination of drought, flooding, and extreme heat—yes, El Niño really can do it all—is likely to disrupt harvests across Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia.
- A strong El Niño could lift food prices by as much as 50%, according to an analysis by the asset management firm Schroders.
Yes, but: It’s difficult under normal circumstances to predict with certainty what the net impact of weather events like El Niño will be—that’s even more true now that climate change is in the mix.
- For example, El Niños can cause warmer winters in areas like the Canadian prairies that lead to better harvests—but in 1999 and 2005, they also brought spring droughts that ultimately reduced food output, costing billions.
Bottom line: This year’s El Niño will add more uncertainty and chaos to the global economy and supply chains—something we have had quite enough of already, thank you very much.—TS