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A day by day comparison sea surface heights from the "super" El Nino in 1997-98 and the current El NIno pattern in the Pacific Ocean.
OUT OF THIS WORLD | Earth, Space And The Stuff In Between

Latest on El Niño and its impact on Canada's winter weather


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Thursday, September 10, 2015, 2:48 PM - El Niño sets up late winter chills for eastern North America and research shows 1,800 years of ocean cooling was abruptly halted and reversed by the Industrial Revolution. It's What's Up In Climate Change.

El Niño may deny eastern NA its hoped-for mild winter

El Niño has a somewhat undeserved reputation for delivering mild winters across North America, however NOAA has issued their latest forecast for the strengthening El Niño, and it's looking more and more like those in the eastern half of the continent will be seeing a cold and likely snowy winter in the new year.


Forecasts for ENSO as of August 18. Credit: NOAA

In The Weather Network's recently-published Winter Preview, Dr. Doug Gillham revealed how December may be mild for much of Canada, but once we delve into 2016, the eastern half of the country will very likely be seeing more of the cold weather that was seen last winter.

The reasons behind this? Among other factors, the persistent "blob" of warm temperatures in the ocean waters off the west coast of Canada, and also the El Niño pattern in the equatorial Pacific.

Now, with NOAA's latest forecast for El Niño, it appears as though the pattern will reach its peak in late Fall or early Winter. While it may still rival or even exceed the 'super' El Niño seen in 1997-98, as the pattern weakens and the easterly winds over that region of the Pacific gather strength again, the retreating warm waters will likely do very little to help eastern North America avoid a chilly winter.

Exactly how intense the winter will be is not yet known. We will need to wait to see how the El Niño progresses and how quickly it retreats. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to get used to seeing this map.

Decades of global warming halt centuries of ocean cooling

The past 200 years or so, ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, have seen some dramatic changes in our planet's atmosphere and oceans. The rapid release of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels - carbon which had been trapped away in the ground for tens of millions of years, removed from the normal carbon cycle that keeps our planet healthy and warm - is quickly outstripping the ability of our planet to adapt to this change. As a result, the atmosphere is warming, the oceans are becoming more acidic and the ocean waters are warming at an unprecedented rate.

A new study, published in Nature Geoscience this week, is showing how the warming of Earth's oceans, mainly due to human activity, actually stopped and reversed an 1,800 year cooling trend that was in effect right up until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

According to the website of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona:

Earlier research had already shown that volcanic explosions cause the atmosphere to cool. The present study demonstrates that the oceans can absorb and capture more heat than the atmosphere over longer periods of time, thus attenuating global temperature changes in the short term. These alterations in temperature can be prolonged when the volcanic eruptions are concentrated into a short space of time.
These findings bring a new perspective to the study of regional and global variations in ocean-surface temperature over the centuries, before the appearance of anthropogenic (human activity-induced) climate change.

With the results of this study showing the very sharp reversal of a long-term cooling trend, it reaffirm the idea that, if it weren't for the Industrial Revolution the Earth would very likely be cooler than normal these days, instead of running 0.85°C above normal. Thus, when quantifying how much human activity is responsible for global warming and climate change, the answer actually comes out as more than 100 per cent!

Global Carbon Dioxide


Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Sources: NOAAUAB | UCAR | Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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