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How El Niño is Hiding the Effects of Climate Change


Climate Change - Accelerating ice melt and sea level rise.Weather patterns are endlessly complicated, a fact that stands in the way of climate change awareness.

Year after year, despite all the mounting evidence and expert testimony, people are still reluctant to take responsibility for their role in the global ecosystem. For many, the moment it snows, any notion of global “warming” gets dismissed. There may be an unfortunate explanation for this; despite the fact that climate change deniers blame “natural cycles” for the rising temperature, these cycles may have actually been fighting climate change for the last decade.

Scientists have a new theory that explains why people do not feel that temperatures are rising or more severe weather events are occurring. While the average global temperature has indeed been rising since the Industrial Revolution, it has stayed relatively constant for the last ten years or so. The potential culprit? El Niño, a weather phenomenon that causes severe weather and can seriously effect climate change.

First, researchers point out that the 1997-98 El Niño event caused a severe heat wave, with temperatures rising much more quickly than the they would have from global warming. It makes the current heat waves seem less dramatic.

In addition, new research has revealed that when El Niño and a few other natural weather cycles happen at the same time (sync), it produces a period of either extreme hot or cool weather. There was a warmer period in the 1970s, explains lead researcher Prof Anastasios Tsonis, and starting in about 2000, the cycles synced again to create a cycle of cool weather. The cycle is likely to continue for another 20 years, so it will be a long time before the real effects of climate change will be felt.

The study, an analysis of historical climate data performed at the University of Wisconsin, makes a lot of sense but is still under debate. Time will reveal just how much El Niño and other natural cycles have mitigated climate change.

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