Showcasing projects building resilience to El Niño - lessons from the field

Annalyse Moskeland

(Scroll down for a cool interactive map, where you can click on each project to find out more)

El Niño, a climatic event that arises every two to seven years, occurs when trade winds that typically blow from east to west across the Pacific weaken. This sets off a chain of events, shifting oceanic surface temperatures, and altering weather patterns across this region of the globe.

Over a period of nine months to two years, these conditions exacerbate drought in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, whilst simultaneously intensifying rainfall in parts of Eastern Africa and South America. These changes severely impact ecosystems and human communities across the Equatorial Pacific, with low and middle-income countries being the most adversely affected.

The most recent El Niño event, occurring from 2015 to 2016, was amongst the strongest ever recorded. In response, NERC and the Department of International Development (DfID) funded the Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event research programme which seeks to improve societal wellbeing by building a knowledge base to inform preparation for future extreme climate events.

The fourteen projects within the programme span multiple geographic locations, revealing the diversity of regional and local scale impacts of El Niño. The Coping with El Niño in Tanzania project, for example, investigates differential impacts in a country that suffers from flooding in its Northern regions and extreme droughts in the south. Research also encompasses multiple disciplines, ranging from the economic impacts of drought induced electricity shortages to the ecological effects of El Niño on diminishing invertebrate populations.

For more information about the research conducted within the El Niño programme and the range of local to regional scale impacts of El Niño, explore the map below (click on icons to explore each project).

This ongoing research has the potential to contribute greatly to our current understanding of the impacts of El Niño. To truly achieve the programme’s goals however, this information must be shared. To this end, an event will be held at the conclusion of the programme in May; bringing together policy makers, practitioners, and researchers to ensure these findings contribute to practical approaches to building resilience of vulnerable communities to future El Niño events.

To read more about the Building Resilience to the Impacts of El Niño event, click here.