Expect a wetter winter this year and a generally rainy spring next year due to the strengthening El Niño, climatologists have said. El Niño is the warm phase of the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) phenomenon, which is measured by the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of the band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean. The cold phase of ENSO is called La Niña.
Intensifying El Niño conditions may bring heavy and more frequent rainfall to the Arabian Peninsula, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen, this winter and spring next year, according to Professor Mansour Al Mazroui, Director, Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Research (CECCR) at the King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah.
“Climate indications suggests that the Arabian Peninsula will have a wetter winter and it’s going to be good for us as a whole. When we say ‘wetter weather’ it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be [huge volumes of rainfall] that can cause major flooding but it means we will receive above normal rainfall,” Prof. Al Mazroui told Gulf News.
“There is a noticeable shift in the Arabian Peninsula climate since 1980s,” he added.
The UAE is one of the world’s top 10 water-scarce nations with an annual rainfall of 78 millimetres (three inches).
El Niño and La Niña cause global changes of temperature and rainfall patterns.
For the Arabian Peninsula this year, there has been a recent change in the ENSO-Arabian rainfall relationship, according to CECCR’s recent published scientific findings using decades-long data. This change means that a stronger El Niño that brings more rainfall and erratic dust storms is on the horizon.
“It is likely to bring above normal rainfall over the southern mountainous regions as well as the northeastern regions of the Arabian Peninsula during the forthcoming winter and spring seasons,” Prof. Al Mazroui said.
The amount of rainfall, however, may not be enough to recharge the groundwater table as stronger El Niños mean higher temperatures that also increase the rate of evaporation.
Currently, the sea surface temperatures over the east-central Pacific are above average and expected to intensify by two degrees Celsius or more above the historical normal in the ENSO region during the 2015 to 2016 winter season. This El Niño event may well be the most intense since 1997/1998, Prof. Al Mazroui said.
The World Meteorological Organisation states that the effects of the current El Niño conditions are already being felt over different regions of the world. Global average temperature readings show that 2015 is on course to being the warmest year by a considerable margin above 2014, the current warmest year. With the ongoing El Niño event predicted to continue, Prof. Al Mazroui said he anticipates that 2016 could be warmer still.