A long season of high temperatures and droughts is forecast, the consequences of which are still difficult to gauge. So it is necessary to be prepared for what is coming in terms of climate
Óscar Osorio Ospina
The announcements recently made by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Risaralda, Carder, about the arrival of the El Niño Phenomenon and temperatures that could oscillate between 38 and 40 degrees Celsius, seem not to worry many Pereirans because in this area of the Although there have been hot days in the country, some have been accompanied by downpours of some intensity.
But the truth is that the El Niño meteorological phenomenon began on June 8, as confirmed by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, a division of the United States Weather Service. In this regard, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) explained that El Niño is a climatic event with global repercussions, which is generated every certain number of years by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, and its effects can be seen in the north of the Pacific region, the departments of the Andean and Caribbean regions.
To learn a little more about both the El Niño Phenomenon and its antagonist, La Niña, we spoke with geologist Jaime Guzmán Giraldo, a specialized professional from the Cárder Territorial Environmental Subdirectorate, who for more than 30 years has worked on the issue of risk threats.
In pedagogical terms, what is the difference between El Niño and La Niña?
The Phenomenon of El Niño is the one that we are entering in an initial phase, for a later development and its maturity towards the end of the year. El Niño as such refers to warming in the superficial part of the Pacific Ocean and this is translated in the Andean zone in times of drought or more than drought, of decreased rainfall in general terms and some impacts associated with this decrease in the rains, very noticeably in the water supply. In turn, La Niña is precisely related to the opposite phenomenon, that is, where the rains abound, which has been very common in our territory and which characterized us practically in the last three years that had and continues to have great impacts. When I speak of excesses, I mean that the rainfall trend or averages are exceeded in the different periods of the year and that level of soil saturation generates landslides and flooding events. That is, in very general terms, the difference between the El Niño Phenomenon and the La Niña Phenomenon.
Are they cyclical phenomena that occur regularly at certain times?
Let’s say yes, in terms of long periods of time or decades, but somehow they don’t follow very strict cycles, although they do occur with some kind of periodicity that is not as uniform as one would expect. Just as we just had a La Niña Phenomenon of about three years, at another time like 2010 to 2011, the La Niña period was of a lower range, although it was also of high impact. So the periodicity is very relative, but the El Niño and La Niña phenomena do intersperse over time and become periodic, so to speak, but at the level of decades and not years like another type of phenomena.
In some way, has man’s action contributed to these climatic alterations?
In terms of the impacts that this type of phenomenon can have, the factors that can contribute to these impacts being greater if they are related to human activities, rather than the very origin of the phenomenon, which is already on a global scale due to another type of Situations, such as an increase in temperature and other types of effects, can interfere in some way on a global scale with the distribution over time of these El Niño and La Niña phenomena. But it is important to take into account that for our territory, the greatest effect or the way in which we promote those effects, is precisely to dedicate areas that should be protected to other types of activities and in that order of ideas, the impacts are very related to the anthropization of areas previously dedicated to protection.
What can be expected this year regarding the El Niño Phenomenon?
Basically this month of June it is still expected that we will be in the phase of what is called neutrality, it is not a phenomenon yet developed as such, although we can already see some effects in sectors at the national level such as Guajira, the Eastern Plains and some other areas of Santander, where concentrations of very high temperatures do begin to be seen. We have had in our territory, some very sporadic days with temperatures of up to 37-38° for example, but for now in the department they are specific situations and are not continuous over time. In other departments it is seen that there is greater progress in terms of the consolidation of the phenomenon at a global level, but we can say that we are still neutral.
What has IDEAM warned about?
This period is declared by IDEAM as the beginning of El Niño, with a 62% probability for the months from May to July. After that, the phenomenon will enter a development phase and towards the end of the year it will reach maturity and it is expected an 80% probability of consolidation by the end of 2023 when we can already have the greatest impacts in Risaralda, which are mainly associated with the eventual occurrence of forest fires, the decrease in water supply and water shortages. These are like the main impacts that must be taken into account in the department and on which the entities are currently making the best efforts so that through a baseline of information, the routes of action can be traced between the different state institutions.
And how long can this phenomenon extend?
For now it is a moderate El Niño, although the IDEAM in its reports has not given a forecast regarding its duration over time. When talking about a moderate phenomenon, we could hope that eventually it would not be very long, but I think that since it is in an initial phase, we still have to wait for how it progresses in its development, its consolidation and if truly, what can we see over time in territories like Risaralda.
What to do in the face of this type of climatic phenomena?
It is important that institutions, especially city halls and territorial entities begin to improve their response capacity, to strengthen institutional action to be prepared, to have inventoried the conditions of the aqueducts and there are different work fronts, such as control of areas that may be exposed by the flow of tourism, given that the increase in temperature greatly facilitates the occurrence of factors for the generation of vegetation cover fires.
A few years ago we experienced a rather serious episode in this matter.
In the department, the areas that have suffered the greatest vegetation cover fires in areas very close to or within the Los Nevados Park, such as the fire that occurred in 2006 in the Laguna del Otún sector that consumed a very large area of about 3000 acres. You have to remember what has happened in the past and that is another fundamental task, to publicize what has happened to us and what can happen, to become aware of the different activities, for example, the flow of ecological tourism. It is important that visitors do not leave items that do not belong to the territory in the territory and that everything that enters with tourism must leave, for example, do not leave glass utensils, other items or garbage that can contribute to the generation of fires.