El Nino has shaken up the latest weather conditions all around the globe. Although this natural phenomenon has a period of average five years, the El Nino of 2015-2016 has been predicted to be the strongest in the historical record dating over 60 years.
The El Nino Southern Oscillation occurs when warm ocean water develops in the Pacific Ocean, leading to high air pressure in the eastern pacific and low air pressures in the west. Normally, the typical conditions of El Nino are characterised by warmer-than-average temperatures.
The effects of El Nino are often long-lasting. The spread of the Zika Virus in January 2015 is related to this phenomenon since the humid conditions created by rainfall over Latin America were ideal for the mosquito, from which the Zika virus is borne. Moreover, El Nino has several economic consequences, including an increase in the prices of certain commodities since demand exceeds supply.
The global average temperatures for 2015 were the highest since record keeping started 135 years ago. The Mediterranean remained hotter than usual in the winter of 2015 not only due to a motionless anticyclonic area of high pressure, but also due to the El Nino event. In the case of the Mediterranean Sea, including the Maltese Islands, temperature has risen by 1-3°, accompanied by little rainfall.
In the Maltese Islands, the effects of warm temperatures during the winter months lead to untimely blooming of flowers, which occurs prior to their normal flowering season. The blooming of the almond flower as early as November 2015 is a case in point. Several almond trees can also be currently encountered along The Cliffs Trail. The minimal rainfall that has characterised winter 2015 has a negative effect on non-irrigated crops, whilst irrigated crops would require huge amounts of water, resulting in continued strain on Malta’s already threatened fresh water sources.