El Niño predicted for Colombia in second half of 2014

Meteorologists warn of droughts due to climatic extremes

Meteorologists warn of droughts due to climatic extremes

BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia is set to experience a shortage of rainfall and soaring temperatures associated with the climatic phenomenon of el Niño in the second half of 2014 and early 2015, climate experts forecast Friday.

Between July and September 2014 there is a 68 percent probability of the country suffering from el Niño and that figure will increase to 79 percent between the months of October and December once the phenomenon “matures,” according to a study by the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies.

El Niño is an atmospheric phenomenon which manifests itself by increasing temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and then affecting coastlines of western South America. Temperatures throughout Colombia will be expected to increase and a decrease in rainfall raises the threat of forest fires, water shortages and problems to livestock and arable farming.

“From now, we are calling out to citizens and institutions alike to prepare themselves for the effects that el Niño will bring,” said Omar Franco, the institute’s director, in a press conference.

The last time Colombia suffered from el Niño between September 2009 and April 2010 there were a reported 497 forest fires and a severe shortage in drinking water. The institute now plans on providing the public with a three month warning so preparations can be made.  

A large concern about the possible effects of 2014’s el Niño is that it will follow on from an already uncharacteristic dry spell in Colombia and will hit when the country usually encounters its second rainy season of the year. Rainfall generally reduces by 60 percent during el Niño and so this could be catastrophic for the northern agricultural departments of the Guajira, Cesar, Atlántico, Magdalena and Sucre.

Another possibility is that water shortages will impact the hydroelectric sector. The 2009 el Niño resulted in electrical blackouts and subsequent rationing.

“We are preparing an official document, which is aimed at all sectors of the nation, that is, to ministries, to corporations, to governments and municipalities, emphasizing the need to generate emergency plans and contingency plans,” said Carlos Ivan Marquez, director of the National Division for Disaster Control.

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