Two images depicting changes in El Nino between 1998 and 2016. © NASA/JPL-Caltech
Two images depicting changes in El Nino between 1998 and 2016. © NASA/JPL-Caltech

Five things to know about... El Niño

24 February 2016

El Niño is a naturally occurring phenomenon where a large area of water in the Pacific Ocean heats up, and sets in motion a chain reaction of weather events around the world.

According to Nasa, the 2016 edition is expected to be one of the most devastating ever, possibly rivaling the worst in 1997 – and has been highlighted as a major risk for the year ahead.

The threat to human life is huge and so are the potential effects on long-haul transportation and supply chains. On the flip side, farmers, particularly in California, are desperate for the rain that the violent weather system may bring.

1. The BBC’s environment correspondent, Matt McGrath, reports that El Niño 2016 threatens hunger and disease for tens of millions across the globe.

2. Elizabeth Chuck, for NBC, sets the scene with historical data about the 1997 and 1998 El Niños which resulted in an estimated 23,000 deaths worldwide.

3. Californian farmers are desperate for water and are hoping that El Niño can deliver the wet winter they need after three successive years of receiving no irrigation water from federal resevoirs, reports Scott Smith from Associated Press.

4. Late last year, Paul Martyn, for Forbes, discussed ways for the supply and logistics industry to prepare for the effects of El Niño 2016, including how the Californian government have tried to ready themselves for the weather system by prioritising its transportation system and toughening up building codes. Ultimately, though, he says El Niño is “an unmanageable source of chaos”.

5. Long, destructive events are hard to plan for, says Matt Castle, director of air freight services for CH Robinson. Castle explains the specific effects of El Niño on supply chains, such as ocean swells hindering ship crossings. He goes on to say that once one mode of transport is adversely affected that puts extra strain on the other forms too. His solution? In a nutshell, it’s about having a flexible enough supply chain to cope with anything nature can throw at you.

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