In the first month of this year, thousands of heat records were broken in the dead of winter across Europe, many by large margins. An estimated 32 trillion gallons of water in the form of rain and snow fell in California, and it still won’t be enough to end the multi-decade megadrought. Last year, while US and Europe witnessed blistering heatwaves, there were devastating floods in other parts of the world. To say that these extreme weather events were simple abnormalities would be downplaying their severity. They were unprecedented. As one weather historian called it, the severe weather event was “totally insane” and “the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology.”
Scientists, meteorologists, and climatologists are all utterly baffled by the recent extreme swings in weather. However, most of them agree that we are hurdling headlong into an El Niño pattern and that this particular one could be worse than any previous El Niño. Now, you should not dismiss this threat. If what these individuals are predicting comes true, it will have severe implications that will directly impact us. It’s not just about having to endure hotter summers, but the systems that we depend on such as agriculture, will be adversely affected which will have dire repercussions. We rarely say this at the beginning of a video, but we know bringing up the discussion of how changes in weather impacts our daily lives does upset some, but we tried our hardest with this blog to stick with just the observational data and warnings based off of that data. For some, they correlate this discussion with politics. We have no political agenda here. Our priority is to our community and making sure we provide useful information to help you get ahead of things and understand how to prepare. If a year from now these things we’re about to explain don’t play out, good, and we hope this video spurs you in your preparedness journey either way. We sincerely hope what we present is wrong because this blog topic is a bit heavy. But, if these scenarios do happen as being predicted by people that have spent their life studying in these specialized areas of expertise, well, we have some real problems that we’ll have to address. So let’s talk about it.
What is El Nino?
El Niño, which translates from Spanish to “the boy,” is the term given to a climate event that has occurred for thousands and thousands of years where the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean experience a period of intense warming. Meteorological institutes worldwide are all beginning to predict that this El Niño will begin to occur later this year. This boy is coming in with a tantrum we likely haven’t seen in generations.
According to the BBC, the year 2023 is likely to be the 10th year in a row to witness a rise in temperature of 1 degree Celsius above average. 2024 may be the eleventh year in a row to see the overall average global temperature rise. As these temperatures rise even a degree, the weather events become more extreme. Heatwaves all become more intense. There’s more moisture in the atmosphere and less on the lands or trapped in ice.
One indicator of how bad this El Niño cycle will be will occur between August and October this year. El Niño events generally suppress Atlantic hurricane activity, so fewer hurricanes than normal form in the Atlantic during August to October, the peak of Atlantic hurricane season. If there is very little hurricane activity during this period, you can expect this El Niño pattern to be especially bad. This doesn’t mean there will be an absence of hurricanes altogether. Although hurricanes occur more often during La Niña episodes, significant tropical weather events have happened during this neutral, transitioning phase like we are currently about to experience. For example, the record-shattering 2005 hurricane season that included Katrina and Rita occurred during a neutral, transitioning phase. It is to say that if we see the sign of very little hurricane activity, we are almost assuredly entering a deep El Niño phase. Meteorologists are having difficulty keeping up with these rapidly shifting and unprecedented patterns.
How will this impact us?
The return of the El Niño climate phenomenon later this year is being predicted to cause global temperatures to rise off the chart this year and next. The previous hottest year on record was 2016, and this same El Niño pattern drove that. That record-breaking year of heat is shaping up to look cool in comparison to this year and next. It’s one thing to see a chart or read an account of weather 1000 to 5,000 years ago, from the 1800s, or even the 1970s or 2000s, and see the parallels to some of what we are experiencing today. In our lifetimes, we can undoubtedly reflect back to the last significant drought, heatwave, polar vortex, or deluge, but these events occurred once or twice a lifetime. Records weren’t broken to this degree year after year after year. Each successive year, we are shattering the records of the year before, the previous century, in all the history of our record-keeping, or the entire observed, researched, and catalogued geological record.
An El Niño pattern alone is manageable, but we see more profound and more frequently shifting cycles. When it’s hot, it is hotter. When it’s cold, it is colder. When it rains, it pours. When it dries from warmer weather and the wind and wildfires pick up, they move faster and with greater lethality. When the drought remains despite the occasional atmospheric river, the Earth can’t absorb the rain when it does fall. The results are flooding and mudslides. When the weather patterns oscillate so wildly to extremes, and temperatures repeatedly break historical records, we find ourselves at the threshold of a very, very different world than the one we have known.
It’s hard to observe the whole world of information and understand the implication of the clouds over our heads and the sun shining on our particular spot on the planet. Still, we must realize that these global events have some pretty dramatic impacts on our lives. At the extreme, civilizations of the past have collapsed by some combination of disease, famine, and war. These record-breaking extreme weather patterns have the potential to usher in each of those on a global scale. Every rising degree allows more zoonotic diseases to jump from the wild. Each extreme weather event, no matter their duration, disrupts the food production and supply chain, and wars are fought over resources to keep the furnaces of economic growth stoked. In the big picture, the macro view of all this, it’s not good. In the past, one civilization might collapse, and another would rise, but we have never before been so much all in this together. We are bound together in trade, economically and technologically, with supply chains that web around the globe increasingly more dependent on each other. A problem in one part impacts the whole. The world is at stake.
Even if it is not as cataclysmic as that, you better still hold onto your hat. This year and next look to be primed to break previously recorded heat records. Expect the hottest recorded temperature on Earth, 56.7°C (134°F) is expected to be broken this year or next if these calculations are anywhere near correct. Expect the extreme weather events in your area’s historical record may occur again. Expect warm snaps in winter that will trick plants into coming out of dormancy too soon. Expect animal migratory patterns to shift and some animals to experience die-offs, having gotten caught off guard by the rapidly oscillating temperature extremes. Expect crops worldwide to fail from too much or too little water, disease, and infestation.
Specific for you, expect the same weather-induced infrastructure failures of municipal water and electricity will become commonplace. Anytime the heat is too extreme, the powerlines can sag, fires can start, and outages can occur as is increasingly becoming a problem in places like California. Anytime it is below freezing for too long, improperly insulated systems can fail, as they did dramatically in Texas a few years back. When the winds of extreme weather blow down trees or powerlines, wildfires can be sparked, which can become dangerous with fast-moving flames and choking smoke in mere minutes.
Specific for you, expect that food shortages will continue for at least the next two years. Crops will fail as droughts deepen, or too much rain in some areas of the world encourage insects and blight to thrive. As the grain and grass are impacted, so too will the meat production on land. Some of the most dramatic effects of an El Niño can be seen in the oceans, so we can’t rely upon turning to those for a food source. Every year, millions of fish— salmon, steelhead trout, shad, alewives, and sturgeon, among others—migrate to their native habitats to reproduce. These patterns can be disrupted. Marine biologists are still scratching their heads, wondering where billions of Snow Crabs have disappeared to.
What can I do to prepare?
We are, perhaps, at the point where if you ignore or dismiss this crisis, you do so to your own detriment. Nobody can tell you with absolute certainty how bad this will get or if it will even correct itself. People often claim this is just another cycle in Earth’s history, proven by the geological record. That’s partially true, but it’s not the whole picture. Yes, there is clear evidentiary data showing cycles in weather that has been found in geology. But, the last cycle that looked like this one occurred far before civilizations were born, far before agriculture, technology, and global supply chains pampered us as they do now. Our systems are far more dependent one another and these changes will impact us all, and have been already.
Look, we know that we paint a not-so-rosy picture here, but we firmly believe there are things you can still do to insulate yourself from and even mitigate the effects of some of the fallout. If there ever was a final opportunity to prep, this is it. The window is closing. Prioritize your food, water, medical, and energy needs. Harden off your home and land from the extremes of weather patterns in your historical record. If it flooded, snowed, or was scorchingly hot in your area in the past few years, expect that again. Expect the opposite extreme to occur at some point.
Even as we find ourselves in winter in the Northern hemisphere, you should be getting your preps in place now to endure a Summer of record-breaking extremes. If that means insulating your house or acquiring cooling sources independent of the grid, you should do that now. If that means stocking your prepper pantry with a particular food ahead of the next shortage, do that now. Our ancestors worked three seasons to secure the resources they needed to endure the long season of winter. Our job now is to work through each season to prepare for the next.
We will caution our readers here. It’s very easy to get swirled up in the uncertainty, speculation, theories, and arguments about what is happening, but it’s undeniable that something is actually happening. We see signs of it every day, everywhere we look, and we can compare that to history, and we are left wondering why now? Why do all these things seem to be occurring with greater frequency and intensity? Only hindsight will provide us with a reasonable answer.
What you can do now is to prepare for an uncertain future. Mother nature is about to hit us pretty hard if these models and projections are even half accurate. You can argue the veracity of the claims and details or accept that the outcomes are coming and it is time to prepare for them.
What are you doing today to prepare for these extreme weather events of tomorrow?
As always, stay safe out there.