Opinions Fri, 29 May 2015

Intense and Prolonged Consequences from “El Ninõ” in 2015?

What Could Happen if there is Intense and Prolonged Consequences from “El Ninõ” in 2015?

Last Tuesday, while glancing through the Yahoo News, one title “El Ninõ will be ‘substantial’, warn Australian Scientists” caught my attention.

El Ninõ is a Spanish word which basically means “The Little Boy”, or “Christ Child”. However, El Ninõ is terminology used by NOAA referring to a large-scale-ocean-atmosphere interaction linked to a periodic warming of sea surface across the central and east-central Equatorial pacific http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ninonina.html. This occurrence causes surface temperatures to rise above temperatures we normally experience. And its impact is on a large scale affecting not only the ocean processes but on the global weather and climate. Normally, this occurrence lasts for few months but could be prolonged. Consequence of El Ninõ includes intense heat waves, no rain resulting in drought and famine. This intense heat waves means exposure to possible UV light which could cause skin cancer as well as heat shocks which is deadly.

El Ninõ is expected to intensify and last longer this year the article points out. In addition, most weather data indicates and supports that the phenomenon is here and its intensity will be significant, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Moreover, the onset of the phenomenon has been confirmed by Japan Meteorological Agency and has even been forecasted that it will continue into late 2015. Currently, India has reported several death associated with this heat wave (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32872846). The article also described the current El Ninõ to be as strongly fitting the stereotypes of those in 1972, 1982, and 1994, which caused severe drought, very hot daytime temperatures, and bushfires in many parts of the world. El Ninõ effect on broader regions, like the West Africa as one block has been well established for this year which there is a possibility of Ghana experiencing this consequences. A recent Financial Times report on global economy indirectly support this claim. The price of Cocoa, a commodity produced mainly by Ghana and Ivory Coast, has rallied more than 10% to two and half year high because of the prospect of a potential El Ninõ. (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/77275cf0-a8f9-11e3-9b71-00144feab7de.html)

El Ninõ occurrence in Ghana in 1982, for instance, caused severe drought, high temperature, electricity power outages, bushfires and consequently, severe food and water shortages, cholera epidemic, overwhelmed hospitals and many economic difficulties that befell families (personal witness), all in 1983. So, reading about the onset of this El Ninõ with similar characteristics as that in 1982, rekindled my 1983 memory. What will happen if this El Ninõ really creates the same circumstances as it did in 1983, in terms of drought and heat? How prepared is Ghana prepared for this possible consequences?

Another likely consequence may be drought. Here little or no rain with higher rate of evapotranspiration may cause plants to wither and die. This may lead lower crop production. Cocoa, cassava, maize, and much cash crop production will drop. Food shortage and hunger may then occur. Rivers and lakes may dry up and may cause low fish production and potable water availability. Poor nutrition may also lead to sicknesses. And, if there is an epidemic, the clinics and hospitals will become overwhelmed and be returning patients home without receiving any medical treatment. In all there this may cause economic stress on the nation.

What if the intensity and duration of the El Ninõ are higher and longer and there is a prolonged drought. Are we ready? A recent visit to Ghana suggests that the temperature is higher than that experienced last year and the rainfall has not started yet. I am not trying to be an alarmist but the knowledge is very critical for preparedness for the possible event. For the reasons, I will would humbly suggest that we should start preparing for possible adverse effect by saving food and water and avoid or limit exposure to direct rays from the sun as much as possible.

• http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32872846

• http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/25/india-heatwave-deaths-heatstroke-temperatures

Douglas Oti, PhD

Belém, PA, Brazil


Columnist: Oti, Douglas