People, Environment

Demystifying El Nino

Demystifying El NinoDemystifying El Nino

Ever since an internal National Iranian Gas Company memo leaked online that suggested the company was preparing for an “unusually cold winter” thanks to El Nino, the weather phenomenon and its possible impacts on Iran have become a contentious issue between the relevant authorities who have gone public to air their vastly different opinions.

Every few years, an unusually large warm pool of water — sometimes two to three degrees Celsius higher than normal — develops across the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to create a natural short-term climate change event.

This warm condition, known as El Nino, affects the local aquatic environment, but also spurs extreme weather patterns on a global scale, from flooding in California to droughts in Australia.

This year’s El Nino, expected to be one of the strongest on record, has caused concern among Iran’s energy officials who believe the country is in for an uncharacteristically snowy winter.

Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said last week his ministry had issued instructions to the relevant bodies to make preparations for a very cold winter, even though Ahad Vazifeh, head of the Weather Forecast and Early Warning Office at the Iran Meteorological Organization, had earlier refuted claims that Iran will experience severe drop in temperatures.

“It’s not as black and white as they make it sound,” Majid Abbaspour, president of the Iranian Society of Environmentalists, told ILNA.

“Given Iran’s geographical location [far away from oceans], the phenomenon did not affect our weather conditions in the past. However, in recent times we’ve noticed unusual weather patterns in the south, particularly in the coastal regions of the Oman Sea.”

Pointing to heavy rainfall and flooding in Iran’s southern regions in recent years, he suggested that the deluge could be attributed to El Nino.

“But only incidents seen in the south can be linked to El Nino, because the Oman Sea is directly connected to an ocean.”

  Specific Factors at Play

In response to claims that Iran is set to experience a chilly, snow-heavy winter, the environmentalist said there are multiple factors that must be taken into account.

“Iran has its own unique weather conditions which are affected by a distinct set of factors. It’s nigh impossible to tell for certain whether we’ll experience an extremely cold winter at this point,” he said.

Recalling Iran’s semi-arid climate, Abbaspour said strong factors such as drought cycles exert significant influence over the country’s weather conditions.

“Right now, we’re in the middle of a severe drought cycle, and this will surely play a role in our winter weather,” he said.

Nevertheless, Abbaspour welcomed El Nino’s potential effects on Iran.

“Taking into account our looming water crisis and drying wetlands, El Nino, which is known for causing substantial rainfall, could help alleviate some of the pressure and help us get through the crisis,” he said.