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Development of a Weak El Nino


  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. recently announced the development of a weak El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. 


El Nino

1.)El Nino is a phenomenon of unusual warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile and Peru which impacts the weather conditions at both the sides of the continents.

  • It largely impacts weather events across the world, with excessive rainfall in some areas and dry spells in regions like India, Indonesia and Australia.
  • In India, over the years, El Nino has been found to have strong links in suppressing the monsoon rainfall.
  • On the other hand, the opposite phenomenon of La Nina (unusual cooling) has been found to be helpful in bringing good rainfall. 


NOAA outlook

  • Status of El Nino at this time of the year usually indicates the kind of rainfall to be expected during the monsoon season later in the year.
  • Weak El Nino conditions had already built up in January 2019.
  • It is likely to continue (with 55% probability) until the spring season in the northern hemisphere (mid-March to mid-June).
  • NOAA said that the probability of El Nino persisting into the summer (beyond June) was 50% or less.
  • Significantly, the warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific Ocean has been forecast to remain in excess of 0.5°C above normal.
  • This is the region whose sea surface temperature (SST) has more connection to the impact on India’s rainfall. 


Impact on India

  • The data for the last 100 years shows that if the SST in Nino 3.4 is over 0.5°C above normal in the monsoon season, rainfall over India gets affected.
  • However, prediction through the northern spring season (instead of summer) has higher degree of uncertainty.
  • So there is a need for better prediction, for clearer understanding of the impact on Indian monsoons.
  •  Moreover, past records show that the impact of El Nino in the monsoon months is relatively high when it is preceded by a La Nina in the winter.
  • Notably, in this winter, sea surface temperatures were above normal, almost close to El Nino; in other words, absence of La Nina.
  • So, even if it occurs, the impact of an El Nino event might not be very large this monsoon.
  • Nevertheless, if El Nino strengthens beyond spring and grows into the summer, India may witness a drought.
  • Some weather events like winds over the western tropical Pacific will finally determine whether El Nino will grow beyond spring. 


Changing frequency of El Nino

  • El Nino events repeat themselves in a 2-to-7-year cycle, with a strong El Nino expected every 10- 15 years.
  • However, since 2000, 5 El Nino events have already happened, and this year could witness a sixth one.
  • New scientific research is pointing to increased frequency of extreme El Ninos due to climate change.
  • Such extreme events could happen twice as often as today if the average annual global temperatures reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
  • However, the increasing frequency could be because of other reasons as well.
  • They are related with the fact that trade winds got stronger and the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean has remained colder since 1998, which makes El Nino more active.
  • The stronger trade winds are not easily explained by global warming, hinting at more complicated reasons. 


Lactic Acid - Science

  • It is an organic acid produced in the muscles during the strenuous exercises.
  • It is a by-product produced during the conversion of glycogen into glucose even in the absence of oxygen.
  • Muscles keep energy stored in the form of a substance called glycogen.  When energy is required by our body, muscles convert this glycogen into glucose, with the help of oxygen.
  • The body prefers to generate most of its energy using aerobic methods, meaning with oxygen.
  • The breaking down of glycogen in the absence of oxygen results in accumulation of lactic acid in muscles.
  • The release of lactic acid acts like a signal for the body to rest.
  • While resting, oxygen is restored and lactic acid is converted back into glycogen by the liver. 
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