According to a new study published on Friday in the Journal Science Advances, global warming could double in frequency, within this century, El Niño-La Niña cycles, making them become stronger and more common.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), El Niño and La Niña are complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Pacific. They are both opposite phases of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes the flunctation in temperature between the ocean and the atmosphere.

These cycles work like a seesaw. El Niño is sometimes referred to as the warm phase of ENSO, since it brings warm water, which produces more moisture and therefore more intense thunderstorms. On the other side, La Niña is referred as the cold phase, for it brings cooler temperatures.

NASA and other agencies are finding indications that an intense El Niño event may be heading to the west coasts of North and South America. Credit: Inhabitat

The higher waters of El Niño, which typically happens every two to seven years, could raise sea levels provoking floodings. The presence of El Niño can also significantly influence weather patterns, ocean conditions, and marine fisheries worldwide for an extended period of time.

In comparison, La Niña is responsible for low sea levels, which, if it drops dramatically, could dry out shallow marine environments. For instance, in the South Pacific islands, this could kill large amounts of corals.

If climate change continues to happen, these sea level extremes will only become more dramatic, stronger and frequent, according to researchers. In fact, meteorologists have predicted that El Niño will hit US west coast later this year, lasting longer than usual.

“The possibility of more frequent flooding in some areas and sea level drops in others would have severe consequences for the vulnerable coastlines of Pacific islands,” said Matthew Widlansky, a researcher at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, in a news release.

These are not news for the scientific world, since other studies have suggested the same. “Our results are consistent with previous findings that showed the atmospheric effects of both El Niño and La Niña are likely to become stronger and more common in a future warmer climate,” added Wenju Cai, a researcher at CSIRO in Australia.

Source: Advances Science