Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Wild Wednesday? Just think about Scorching Summer - 2014 'to be hottest on record'

Scientists say there is a 75 per cent chance of 2014 being the hottest summer on record

John Lennox, Kirsty McMurray, Chloe Clendinning, Ashley Jones, Thomas Pentland and Janet Martin enjoy the sunny weather at Helen's Bay in Co Down as a heatwave hits Northern Ireland in July 2013.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
John Lennox, Kirsty McMurray, Chloe Clendinning, Ashley Jones, Thomas Pentland and Janet Martin enjoy the sunny weather at Helen's Bay in Co Down as a heatwave hits Northern Ireland in July 2013. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Perhaps hard to believe during the wettest winter in a hundred years, but scientists are 75 per cent certain that 2014 will be the hottest summer on record.

The weather is being linked to the El Niño pattern, which occurs when waters on the Pacific equator are unusually warm, which can lead to disruptive changes in ocean and wind currents across the world.

In a study published by the 'PNAS' journal, scientists in Germany claim they are able to forecast El Niño trends a year in advance, up from the six months currently forecast, LiveScience reported.

The scientists at Armin Bunde of Justus Liebig University in Giessen, made their prediction by mapping links between temperatures in the El Niño basin and the rest of the Pacific.

This is instead of mapping water temperatures in the eastern Pacific, which only achieves six month forecasts because the method is affected by winds blowing across the equator.

Scientist claimed that by using the new method, they correctly predicted no El Niño events over the past two years, but say there will be one in late 2014.

The researchers hope that the longer forecasts could be used to help countries prepare more effectively for the potentially turbulent weather changes El Niño can bring.

However, Climatologist Tim Barnett at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, told LiveScience that the methods the researchers used were outdated.

"The techniques the researchers used made me feel like I was back in the 1980s and 1990s," Mr Barnett said in an interview.

Other experts argue that this approach only analyses statistical patterns in temperature,  rather than the physics of the seas or atmosphere, which they claim can always be found if you look hard enough.

"The risk of an El Nino event in the second half of 2014 has increased, but it's certainly not guaranteed at this point in time," said Andrew Watkins, Supervisor, Climate Prediction at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, adding the likelihood of the summer weather would not be clear until the second quarter.

El Niño means "little boy" or "the baby Jesus" in Spanish, and was named by South American fishermen who noticed that the ocean heats around Christmas.

Its counterpart, La Niña, or "little girl", occurs when equatorial Pacific waters are unusually cold. El Niño and La Niña are together knwon as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.

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