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El Niño: When Nature’s Whims Tip the Balance

There is a certain unease that settles over the land when El Niño arrives. It is not just the heat, the unrelenting sun glaring down like an accusatory eye. It is something deeper, a disturbance that permeates the atmosphere, unsettling the delicate equilibrium we have come to rely on.

El Niño is not a simple weather phenomenon; it is a disruption, a reminder that nature is not a fixed entity but a capricious force, capable of altering the very fabric of our existence.

When El Niño rears its head, the consequences are far-reaching, like a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world, causing a hurricane on the other. Rainfall patterns shift, rivers dry up, and once-fertile lands become barren. It’s as if nature has decided to rewrite its rules, leaving us scrambling to adapt. When El Niño comes to call, India watches as its weather script is rewritten. A land accustomed to the timely arrival of monsoon winds, vital for crops and livelihoods, finds itself waiting in vain. The heavens withhold their blessings, and the land turns parched. Rivers that once flowed with abundance slow to a trickle, echoing the anxious hearts of farmers who depend on them. It’s a slow-motion crisis, like watching the heartbeat of the nation falter.

Credits: BYJUs

The consequences are layered, far-reaching, a series of interconnected ripples that disrupt the rhythm of Indian life. Agriculture, the backbone of the nation, feels the brunt. Crops shrivel in the fields, while farmers watch helplessly, their dreams of a bountiful harvest withering alongside their withered plants. Food prices spike, and the divide between plenty and paucity deepens.

But the fallout is not just economic. The delicate tapestry of ecosystems is torn asunder. Species struggle to adapt, their habitats reshaped by the erratic rhythms of an El Niño-altered climate. Forests grow silent, as migratory birds that once filled the skies with song find their path disrupted, their rhythm disrupted by a force they cannot comprehend.

In a country where water holds profound cultural significance, the disruption of rain patterns is a spiritual upheaval. The Ganges, a river intertwined with the soul of India, loses its customary flow. Pilgrims watch, disheartened, as the waters that have carried prayers for generations dwindle. It’s as if the very essence of faith is being tested by these climatic upheavals.

Urban centers, hotbeds of commerce and culture, feel the repercussions too. A nation already grappling with its urban sprawl finds its cities choking on the dust of drought-stricken fields. Water scarcity leads to civic tensions, a reminder that even in the most technologically advanced age, nature’s whims remain beyond control.

The recent heat wave experience across the subcontinent also owes a great deal to the convective limbs of the ENSO phenomena. According to a reply by Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh, the government has found that the warming of the tropical Indian Ocean and more frequent El Niño events in the future may lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves over India. It’s return after an eight year break had caused the heat wave this year to be more intense, as it did in 2015 and 2016, the last we were hosts to the little child.

Though the literature on the subject might be bit lacking a study by the Royal Metrological Society provides a bit of evidence for the link. The majority of heat waves in India occur during the pre-monsoon summer season, typically from March to May especially during El Niño years, the pre-monsoon summer might extend to July. This suggests a possible relationship between El Niño years and heat waves in India. A delay in the onset of the ISM will result in the extension of the pre-monsoon summer season, thereby enhancing heat wave characteristics, such as frequency, maximum temperature and duration. According to the study a large percentage of Indian states experienced higher duration and days during El Niño years compared to normal years. This indicates that heat waves were more frequent and lasted longer during El Niño years.

As El Niño continues to exert its influence, India’s heatwave serves as a poignant reminder of our vulnerability. It challenges us to confront the limits of our dominion over the environment, to recognize that even in an age of technological prowess, we are still humbled by the larger rhythms of the Earth.

Sumaiya Shakil is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Ambrisha Zubeen

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Written by Sumaiya Shakil

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