El Niño's Impact on Mexican Pacific Waters and Beyond

El Niño's prolonged presence in Mexico's Pacific waters intensifies global warming, elevating hurricane risks. Coral reefs face unprecedented bleaching, with 80-100% loss. Ocean warming disrupts bacterial processes, posing threats to coastal areas.

El Niño's Impact on Mexican Pacific Waters and Beyond
Researcher monitoring ocean temperatures off the Mexican Pacific coast.

In recent revelations by the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change (ICAyCC) at UNAM, researchers shed light on the prolonged presence of the El Niño phenomenon, forecasting its continuation until the initial months of 2024. This phenomenon, historically reaching its peak between December and February, is anticipated to persist into the spring months of the upcoming year, significantly influencing the climate dynamics of the Mexican Pacific waters.

Jorge Zavala Hidalgo, director of ICAyCC, highlighted the substantial contribution of El Niño to the ongoing global warming trend in the Mexican Pacific. The repercussions are profound, with the region bracing for the likelihood of more intense hurricanes and the distressing loss of coral reefs across the country.

As the anomaly associated with El Niño traverses South America, it generates waves that deepen the layer of warmer water, sweeping across the Mexican Pacific coasts. Consequently, experts predict the maintenance of anomalously high temperatures, fostering conditions conducive to extreme weather events.

Benjamín Martínez López, a researcher at ICAyCC, underscored the alarming increase in temperature observed last September due to the lingering effects of El Niño. Should this trend persist, there is a genuine concern that this iteration of the phenomenon could rank among the most intense on record, as indicated by jet streams, northerlies, and potent storms at high latitudes.

The intensification of oceanic water temperatures, coupled with the absorption of carbon dioxide and acidification of the liquid, has severe consequences, notably the bleaching of corals. In regions like Huatulco, a 100 percent loss has been recorded, while the coastal areas of the country exhibit an 80 to 90 percent loss, according to Guillermo Horta-Puga from FES Iztacala.

The unexpected persistence of bleaching even as temperatures drop towards the year-end is a cause for concern, revealing a phenomenon previously unseen. The extent of the coral loss remains uncertain, but the proportions are alarmingly high, emphasizing the urgency of conservation efforts.

Karina Ramos Musalem, an academic from the Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction Group, highlighted how ocean warming contributes to oxygen deficiency in deep layers, impacting bacterial processes and metabolism. This, in turn, poses challenges to coastal areas, emphasizing the interconnectedness of climate phenomena and their consequences on marine ecosystems.

Moreover, Julián Velasco Vinasco, a member of the Climate Change and Solar Radiation Group, drew attention to the detachment of large ice blocks, jeopardizing the Atlantic circular current. The potential collapse of this current, as projected by research, could lead to a catastrophic loss of species by 2070, surpassing the impact of any climatic event in the past.

As we navigate through the complexities of El Niño's influence on Mexico's Pacific waters, it is imperative to recognize the urgency of collaborative research efforts and conservation initiatives. The delicate balance of marine ecosystems hangs in the balance, and understanding these intricate connections is crucial for effective mitigation and adaptation strategies in the face of climate change.