Nate Cohn writes that the coming El Niño “might represent a turning point” in the debate over climate change.
“The oscillation between El Niño and La Niña, El Niño’s cold-water cousin, is part of the reason for slower atmospheric warming. Sea surface temperatures in the Pacific rise during El Niño and ultimately heat up the atmosphere” to produce a “mini” global warming event. The reverse happens during La Niña.
“For a decade, climate scientists have battled a public-relations challenge: Even though atmospheric temperatures are higher than at any time in the past 4,000 years, surface temperature increases seem to have slowed down since 1998. The planet has gotten warmer over the last decade, but climate change skeptics have used this so-called hiatus or pause in warming to take aim at the accuracy of the climate models, which appeared to predict more significant warming than has so far happened.”
“The shifts between El Niño and La Niña offer an elegant explanation for at least some or perhaps most of the slowdown in atmospheric warming.”
“The return of El Niño is likely to increase global temperatures … [and] that could make a difference in the battle for public opinion.”