Saturday, 23 May 2015

Naughty Boy will cause Chaos

Meteorologists around the globe are predicting a major El Niño event next month. 

El Niño is a warming of the Pacific Ocean and occurs on an irregular cycle every 2 to 7 years. "So what?", I hear you cry "we are miles away". Well this is where the interconnectedness of everything comes into play and a series of unfortunate dominos begin to fall. Chaos ensues. 

I have always found the concept of chaos theory quite appealing: the idea that one random change in place A could have disastrous consequences for place B.  Michael Crichton's book, Jurassic Park explains the concept well ( the film less so ( 

One slight change in ocean temperature in one part of the Pacific Ocean can cause a ripple of changes throughout our oceans and atmosphere: everything is linked. Whenever there is an El Niño, global weather patterns change: places which should get rain go dry and arid areas get deluged leading to flash floods and hillsides being washed away. As well spoiling our summer, this can have disastrous consequences on LICs which are dependant upon farming, whether for subsistence or economic gain. If the monsoon rains do not arrive and the rice crop in India fails, what impact will this have on world rice prices? Yes, your bag of Tilda from Waitrose will go up by 50p and your takeaway curry might creep up in price. 

In fact, in November last year (right in the middle of the graph) rice prices did jump and buying a kilogram bag of Tilda went up nearly a pound here in the UK. I was outraged at the time as we do tend to consume rather a lot of it. But we can cope with spending an extra few pence a month on food. What about Asian LICs? How will the poorest people on less than a dollar a day afford their staple food? 

In 2010, excessive rainfall in the onion producing parts of India led to a delay in onions getting to market and the "Onion Crisis" led to public outcry in India and political tensions at the highest levels. (

If you look at countries whose economies are dependant upon selling one or two key crops (sugar, bananas, coffee, etc.) the 'rice scenario' can be applied when El Niño occurs. Millions of people will be affected.

This story will develop over the next few weeks: there will be unusual weather events, flooding, drought and economic disasters. All because of a naughty little boy: El Niño! He will affect weather in the UK to a degree but quite how is difficult to predict. 

Watch this space...

To find out more about El Niño ...