Study: Global Warming Will Bring More 'Extreme' El Niño Events

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2.1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.  (National Journal)

A new study predicts that global warming will increase the frequency of "extreme" instances of El Niño, the Pacific Ocean warming pattern that disrupts global weather.

"Potential future changes in such extreme El Niño occurrences could have profound socio-economic consequences," states a summary of the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It predicts that occurrences of unusually strong El Niño events will double in frequency, from once every 20 years to once every 10 years. The major El Niño in 1997-1998 caused an estimated $35 billion in damages, the researchers said.

"During an extreme El Niño event countries in the western Pacific, such as Australia and Indonesia, experienced devastating droughts and wildfires, while catastrophic floods occurred in the eastern equatorial region of Ecuador and northern Peru," said the lead author, Dr. Wenju Cai of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia's national science agency.

Climate Central has more here on the study released Sunday.