“El Niño”and Climate Change Caused Record Disasters in Latin America during 2023, According to the World Meteorological Organization

    Last year was the warmest on record in the region, the report noted

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    The El Niño phenomenon and the effects of global warming due to human activity caused a record of climate disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2023, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, indicated this past Wednesday.

    Last year was the warmest on record in the region, said the report, which also warned that sea level rise and glacial retreat continued, and that “a major change” in the distribution of precipitation caused droughts and forest fires, but also floods and landslides.

    “Unfortunately, 2023 was a year in which climate dangers broke records in Latin America and the Caribbean,” WMO Secretary General Celeste Saulo said in a statement.

    Human-induced climate change

    Saulo attributed the increase in these extreme events to the combination of conditions associated with El Niño with the consequences of human-induced climate change.

    The WMO described El Niño as a natural climate pattern associated with warming of the ocean surface in the tropical Pacific, which usually occurs every two to seven years and lasts between nine and twelve months. But she stressed that it is currently taking place in the context of a climate altered by human activities.

    Storms and floods

    In 2023, 67 episodes of meteorological, hydrological and climatic disasters were reported in the region. Of these, 77% were linked to storms and floods, the WMO report said based on data from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

    Among the climate disasters of 2023, the WMO highlighted Hurricane Otis, which devastated the Mexican resort of Acapulco in October, leaving at least 45 dead and millions in damage.

    They also mentioned the intense drought that hit the region, which caused the lowest level of the Negro River to be recorded in the Amazon in more than 120 years of measurements, and that ship traffic through the Panama Canal was “seriously” disrupted since August.

    In addition, it was highlighted that the drought in La Plata basin affected northern Argentina and southern Brazil and especially hit Uruguay, which experienced its driest summer in 42 years and experienced a critical lack of water.

    The WMO added to all this the scourge of torrential rains that left dozens dead due to landslides and floods, both in southeastern Brazil in February, and in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in November.

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