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El Niño causes severe droughts across the world

Drought in Ethiopia, 2015Drought in Ethiopia, 2015 El Niño, a weather event that happens roughly every three to five years, has triggered the worst global food crisis of the last 25 years. Much of India, Latin America and parts of Southeast Asia have suffered intense heatwaves and devastating droughts. India recently broke the world record, with a temperature of 51°C (124°F) recorded in Rajasthan. But the worst effects of El Niño, which warms the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean off South America, have been felt in southern Africa.

Two years in a row without rain have resulted in severe food shortages for some of the poorest people in the world. The United Nations World Food Programme expects some 50 million people will need help with food supplies over the next nine months.

Crops in Tanzania devastated by droughtCrops in Tanzania devastated by drought

According to scientists, surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have now cooled to normal levels, marking the end of the 2015–16 El Niño. It is considered to be the strongest for 35 years—although the extreme conditions will persist for months, even years, into the future. The fear is that a reverse effect, called “La Niña”, may now occur, in which temperatures fall to below normal in the Pacific equatorial waters, bringing heavy rains, floods and much cooler temperatures to the same regions affected by El Niño.

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