El Niño or the “warm phase,” is a periodic phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean once every four to seven years.
Surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean rise, causing weather patterns throughout the world to change. Extreme weather can result from these changes, including hurricanes, droughts, and heavy rainfalls resulting in floods.
However, very limited research has been undertaken to examine the cascading effects of these extreme weather events. Now, new research trying to analyse these effects has uncovered some terrifying insights.
In a paper proclaimed in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Chicago have revealed that El Niño has massive ramifications on the world, triggering disease outbreaks, along with long-term economic impacts.
The most startling revelation from the paper was that El Niño indirectly pushes over 60 lakh children into severe hunger and childhood malnutrition.
“It’s a real tragedy that even in the 21st century so much of the human population is pushed to desperation by predictable climate processes,” said Gordon McCord, a public health researcher from the University of California, San Diego.
Researchers analysed over forty years world of children’s health records from over 50 developing countries and the mean ocean surface temperatures between the months of May and December for each year – indicating whether the ocean experienced the effects of El Niño in that particular year.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), up to 20 percent of children in the tropics are malnourished. Moreover, the crops grown in these regions are unable to withstand the already high temperatures. Thus, severe weather events will likely exacerbate the already delicate situation, pushing more children into malnutrition.
“Scientists can predict an approaching El Nio six months in advance, giving the international community the opportunity to act in time to prevent the worst impacts,” said Amir Jina, the paper’s author and an environmental economist at University of Chicago. “Our study helps to quantify those impacts on child nutrition to guide global public investments in food-insecure areas.”