CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Thursday March 27, 2014
Strongest signs of an El Niño in 20 years
According to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, signs are becoming increasingly clear that a strong El Niño may be building up for Galapagos in the coming months. Not having 100% confidence in NOAA, CNH Tours consulted its good friend Geert Jan Van Ogdednburgh of the Dutch climate team on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "GJ" has access to all the models and data - and he responded:
"Yes, there is a chance of a big El Niño developing over the summer. The model if the European Weather Centre (ECMWF) has a 50% chance if a once in 30 years or bigger event, 5-10% bigger than 1997. Other models are more conservative. Over the next few months it'll become clearer."
An El Niño will be manifested by very warm and humid air conditions, with very warm waters, and frequent downpours. These conditions are generally favourable to land animals (good for the newly re-introduced Mangrove Finch chicks - the rarest birds in the world), as there is plenty of food to go around. But this is terrible for marine ecosystem dependent animals such as sea lions, marine iguanas, sea birds, penguins and flightless cormorants. The very warm waters chase away all food supplies and these animals face starvation - many of them will die in the months ahead if an El Niño strikes.
For vistiors, this means very warm waters (forget the wetsuit) and humid conditions. Be sure your ship or hotel AC is working! You may see grim sites on visitor trails, dead or dying animals, very thin sea lions etc... but you must understand that this is the cycle of nature - and these pressures are what drives evolutionary processes. Of course, some believe that the penguins and cormorants are on the brink of extinction as it is, and too many intensive El Niños will be the end of them.
El Niño conditions start manifesting themselve in May - June. Instead of cooling down, the air and sea temperatures keep on warming up. Typically, these conditions last for a year, with the onset of the following year's cool season (e.g. June 2015) marking the end of things.