In Central America's Dry Corridor, a historically drought-prone region that stretches from Mexico to Panama and is home to 10.5 million people, climate change is producing longer and more frequent dry spells and forcing a growing number of farmers to attempt to migrate to the U.S., according to FERN's latest story, published with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)
According to NASA data, 2017 was the second-hottest year on record, or the hottest year without an El Niño weather pattern, which drives up temperatures in the short term.
An area the size of New Zealand, some 29.7 million hectares (73.4 million acres), was stripped of tree cover during 2016, says data on Global Forest Watch, an increase of 51 percent from the previous year. "Forest fires seem to be a primary cause for this year's spike, including dramatic fire-related degradation in Brazil," wrote two World Resources Institute analysts in a blog.
The food chain off the coast of California is starting too look shorter and less diverse thanks to environmental events like El Niño and potentially climate change, say scientists who tracked the diets of dolphins.
With temperatures approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter than the average temperature from 1981 to 2010, 2016 was the hottest year on record, according to a report published by the American Meteorological Society. Last year was the third year in a row for record heat in the U.S.
The monsoon rains that are the lifeblood of India's farmers may be unaffected by forecasts of an El Niño weather pattern at mid-year, a top weather official told Reuters. The rains usually arrive around June 1 at Kerala, a state at the southern tip of India, the second-most populous nation in the world, and retreat by September from Rajastan, which borders Pakistan in northern India, some 2,000 kilometers away.
Civil conflicts and their consequences, including refugees needing food in neighboring countries, are a factor in 21 of the 39 countries that need food assistance, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a quarterly report. Warfare in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria has disrupted food supplies for at least 40 million people, it said.
More than 100,000 people died prematurely because of smoke and haze created by vast forest fires, mainly in Indonesia, last year, said the New York Times, pointing to research by two U.S. universities. The blazes destroyed more than 10,000 square miles of forests and began with fires intended "to clear land for palm oil plantations and other uses," said the newspaper.
Africa accounts for 28 of the 36 countries worldwide that need food aid, says the FAO in its quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. Drought reduced harvests in North Africa and in southern Africa, more than offsetting improvements in East and West Africa and pulling the continent's grain output to a below-normal level.
NOAA has shelved its La Niña watch because its forecasters see little prospect for the weather pattern, somewhat of a mirror to the better-known El Niño, for the next six months. In June, La Niña chances were 75 percent but they are now 40 percent because air and water temperatures in the southern Pacific Ocean are relatively neutral between the two weather patterns.
Although 2016 is likely to be the warmest year since global weather record keeping began, 2017 is likely to be a bit cooler with the demise of the El Niño weather pattern, scientists told Reuters. "Next year is probably going to be cooler than 2016," said Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain.
More than 60 million people worldwide, including 40 million in eastern and southern Africa, are at risk of hunger due to the El Niño weather pattern that is now waning, said leaders of three UN agencies.
The 15 nations of the Caribbean, an array of islands and coastal nations, experiences drought-like weather every year and can expect droughts to be increasingly frequent and intense due to climate change, says an FAO report. "Agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences," said the UN agency.
Coffee growers in Vietnam, Indonesia and India, three of the seven largest coffee-producing nations on earth, will harvest smaller crops — down by a combined 2.5 percent — due to drought magnified by the El Niño weather pattern, according to a USDA forecast. The semi-annual Coffee: World Markets and Trade report said a record crop of Arabica beans in Brazil, the world's largest coffee grower, would lead to a modest rise in global production.
Chickpea prices have soared 44 percent in the past year to reach an all-time high in India, says Agrimoney. India is the world's largest consumer of chickpeas but the pulse is in short supply because of drought.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest and most-populous country, needs help feeding refugees fleeing armed conflict in the northeastern corner of the country, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a quarterly report on food insecurity around the world.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology says one of the strongest El Niño weather patterns in history is over, and it gives a 50-percent chance that a La Niña pattern will be upon us by the end of this year, reports the Financial Times. La Niña "typically brings cooler and wetter conditions in the Pacific and more storms in Europe and the United States."
The world may be headed for its first tight rice supply since the spike in global food prices nearly a decade ago, says a social scientist at the International Rice Research Institute, part of a network of agricultural research centers.
Low water levels in the Mekong Delta has allowed seawater to penetrate 56 miles inland, ruining vast swathes of cropland, says Reuters.