August 25, 2011

Study Finds El Nino May Cause Civil Unrest


A new study, published in the journal Nature draws a correlation between El Nino weather events and civil warfare.

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) happens every two to seven years and is a warming of ocean water in the western pacific that shifts across the ocean. This warming of the ocean causes the warmer air to rise, pushing away clouds and moisture changing rainfall patterns and temperatures across much of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Australia.

The correlating La Nina phase brings cooler temperatures and more rainfall in tropical areas.

The study looked at ENSO´s from 1950 to 2004 and overlaid the data with civil wars that had killed more than 25 people a year. The data included 175 countries and 234 conflicts. The study showed that during La Nina events, the chance of a country breaking out in civil war was 3 percent, as opposed to 6 percent during El Nino years, unaffected countries maintain a 2 percent chance no matter what.

Coauthor Mark Cane, a climate scientist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said that the study does not show that weather alone starts wars, “No one should take this to say that climate is our fate. Rather, this is compelling evidence that it has a measurable influence o how much people fight overall. It is not the only factor – you have to look at politics, economics, all kinds of other things.”

Cane said that climate change may make the world “more El Nino like,” the authors did not however predict how the ENSO may change in a warmer world.

“What (the study) does show, beyond any doubt, is that even in this modern world, climate variations have an impact on the propensity of people to fight. And it is frankly difficult to see why that won´t carry over to a world that is disrupted by global warming.”


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