By Tiffany Mucci
As of late in the Chicago region, we’ve had more rain than snow, and we’ve been spared the frigid cold we’re known for this time of year. Instead, it’s been a warm and soggy winter. Whether you’re thankful for the mild temperatures, or leery of the ecological ramifications of such unseasonable conditions, the El Nino phenomenon is largely responsible for this rather tropical weather.
El Nino 2015 is proving to be a notably strong one this time around, and while this routine warming pattern impacts the world in a wide variety of ways, the extreme storms we’ve experienced across the Midwestern and Southern United States have proven to be especially dangerous and deadly.
The Guardian posted an article this past weekend to report on the heavy rainfall that currently has parts of 16 states wading in floodwaters. According to the report, this winter’s flooding has been blamed for 22 deaths in Illinois, and Governor Rauner has responded by calling in National Guard troops and has declared disaster zones in 12 counties. While some areas are beginning to recover from the damages, other states are preparing for what is yet to come.
El Nino may be the larger force behind these severe storms, but you might also be wondering where climate change fits into all of this.
Meteorologist and Weather Underground blogger Bob Henson recently appeared on the PBS NewsHour to comment on El Nino and its interactions with global climate change. Henson explains, “One thing we know is that in a warming atmosphere, the peaks of that warming tend to get expressed through El Nino’s.” Since an El Nino stems from warmer Pacific sea surface temperatures, the intensity of the 2015 El Nino is likely being influenced by the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
So whatever your outlook on this mild winter we’re having, we can anticipate more of the same for next few months.
Tiffany Mucci is a senior Sustainability Studies major at Roosevelt University and graduate of Joliet Junior College, the first community college in the US. She is the assistant editor of the SUST blog for the 2015-16 academic year, and a co-editor of Writing Urban Nature, an environmental humanities project of the new Roosevelt Urban Sustainability Lab.