What is El Niño?
El Niño is an atmospheric and oceanic event that occurs every 3-5 years in the Southern Hemisphere and causes unusal changes in climate across the world. During El Niño years, there is greater warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific. Warmer surface ocean temperatures cause irregular temperatures, rainfall, and wind patterns across the continents.
How does El Niño affect Madagascar?
During El Niño years, rainfall patterns shift dramatically and Madagascar undergoes a dry anomaly with the potential for little to no rainfall from November to March. Since Madagascar is already a relatively dry climate, a further reduction in rainfall could have devastating impacts on vegetation, crops, and access to freshwater across the island. This change in weather pattern may compound drought and famine in Malagasy communities throughout the country and particularly in the arid southwest.
El Niño also brings warmer ocean water to the coasts of Madagascar which can be deadly for many marine species like corals and fish. Ocean warming increases stress in many coral species and can cause them to expel their algal symbionts, which, when prolonged, causes the corals to die. Corals are keystone species and without them the entire reef ecosystem can falter or collapse. If the coral reefs of Madagascar suffer, the fisheries they support will decline further and Malagasy communities will suffer from even greater food shortages.
Why is El Niño important to ARMS Restore?
As we enter El Niño years, our work at ARMS Restore is more important than ever. Our research on growing coral ecosystems through the use of ARMS and artificial reefs could be able to provide some relief for the Malagasy communities. Employing these tools will hopefully make reefs more resilient to warming events and enhance fisheries.