A strong El Niño is being blamed for all sorts of extreme weather in South America, Europe, and the United States this year. For now, it shows no signs of letting up.
This week, Paraguay was hit by the worst floods in 50 years. About 130,000 people evacuated their homes as flooding threatened the capital city of Asuncion, and about 20,000 people fled northern Argentina (which borders Asuncion). Paraguay’s national emergency office said these floods were directly linked to El Niño, which has “intensified” the rains, reports the BBC.
In Uruguay and Brazil, thousands have also been forced to leave their homes due to storms and raising water levels. Earlier this month, the UK saw record rainfall with Storm Desmond, which flooded and knocked out power in parts of northern England, Ireland, and Scotland. And in early 2016, millions of people in Africa are expected to face food shortages due to higher temperatures.
El Niño is a complex global weather system that lasts nine to 12 months, and occurs every two to seven years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It comes from a periodic rise in the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean around the equator.
NASA said yesterday (Dec. 29) that the US will feel the effects of the ”still-growing” El Niño over the next few months, too. The space agency compared images of this year’s El Niño and the “last large” one, which started in 1997, and found they look nearly identical. While NASA said that scientists can’t predict exactly how El Niño will impact the US, it noted that 1997-1998 one was a “wild ride for most of the nation.”
Some say parts of the US have already started to feel the effects. Temperatures have been unseasonably warm in large parts of the northeastern US—although, as Quartz reported earlier, that’s not necessarily cause for alarm. A massive storm moving through the Midwest has caused more than 2,800 flights to be cancelled and about 4,800 to be delayed, according to the Associated Press, while severe storms and tornados across seven US states have left at least 43 people dead.