We don’t hear much about it on Australian media, however we are no strangers to natural disasters. We know drought, we know fire and we know floods. However, we are not alone in these experiences, and one cannot help but wonder about these disasters in our region, and perhaps if El Nino is really quietly pulling the climate strings. We hear conflicting reports: warm pacific waters, but cool off NSW, we hear about ‘the Blob’ off America and wonder is the pacific ocean really becoming a ‘cauldron’ like the New York Times says? Is it just media hype? Or do we need to start re-thinking our disaster plan to included basic necessities like clean water?
According to a recent report from the World Meterological Organization (WMO) the ocean and atmospheric conditions in the pacific region have characteristics of a strong El Nino. And we can confirm from business associates in that region, that El Nino is definitely having an impact. The biggest concern is fresh water shortages, and the myriad of direct and indirect implications arising from this. Therefore, with El Nino in mind and how engineering can provide every-day real solutions, this blog is dedicated to examining El Nino.
So what is El Nino?
A view of El Nino in 1997 compared to 2015 (NOAA)
Contrary to popular opinion, El Nino doesn’t manifest as a big storm, instead, as described by Climate.gov, it causes changes to global weather systems, much like a large construction project that causes changes to traffic-flow throughout a city. Except, these weather changes are global. The experts call it an anomaly, therefore, they are not sure what to expect. What is known is that it’s a periodic warming of a specific region – the central and eastern equatorial Pacific – to be exact. El Nino is characterized as ‘unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific region’ (WMO). For reasons, that nobody quite understands, this patch of ocean, warms every two to seven years for a period of six to eighteen months. This isn’t the first one, and most likely, it won’t be the last. And we have one happening at the moment, expected to peak between now and January 2015. So why are people so nervous now, you may ask?
The last strong El Nino was in 1997-1998. However, since then, there has been a lot of climate warming, a lot of polar snow-cap reduction and therefore a different looking planet. In the pacific region, drought and low rainfall is historically associated with El Nino. Currently, drought warnings exist across India, Phillipines, Fiji and more. And Australia is no stranger to drought.
Fresh water shortage seems to be one of the biggest worries for people in that immediate region, and with regional Australia, and in particular Queensland experiencing extreme drought conditions, showing record statistics for land and stock perishing due to lack of water, who wonders that El Nino will cause further havoc. According to Wil Steffan, Climate Councillor at Climatecouncil.org ‘Climate change is driving an increase in the intensity and frequency of hot days and heat-waves in Australia, in turn increasing the severity of droughts’.
So we know in advance that water shortage is already happening and a real danger. From an engineering perspective, water purification and desalination are real solutions, i.e the removal of chemical or impure substances to make water useable and ultimately drinkable. Our communities, our farms, our businesses, our schools, our hospitals need it. Many techniques such as filtration, sedimentation, chlorination, osmosis, reverse-osmosis and more are used. Governments set standards for the minimum and maximum quantity of contaminants. Engineering is an imperative.
Talk to our Managing Director, Damian Canniffe, about your options for water shortages. Ask him about projects relating to remote infrastructure management, alternative energies, fresh-water generators and more. Complete our contact page and call us to discuss.
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