There is a 75 to 80 percent probability of an El Nino weather phenomenon developing within the next three months, the World Meteorological Organization reports.
Global seasonal climate data show precipitation patterns predicted for December to February resemble those normally associated with El Nino, WMO said, adding that it is not expected to be as powerful as the deadly event in 2015 and 2016, which caused droughts, flooding and coral bleaching around the world.
While a weaker El Nino is expected to emerge, WMO scientists warn it still can have a significant impact on rainfall and temperature patterns. They say it could adversely affect agriculture and food security, the management of water resources, and public health.
WMO spokeswoman Claire Nullis tells VOA neutral weather conditions have prevailed for the past few months, with neither El Nino nor its opposite La Nina present. While they are associated with extreme weather events, she says they are not the only factors.
“And we need to bear in mind, we have got climate change,” she said. “So, every El Nino, every La Nina, which takes place now is taking place against a background of the fact that we are living in a dramatically altered climate compared to even 50 years ago. So, the impacts, for instance, on heat waves are likely to be more pronounced than they were several decades ago.”
El Nino and La Nina are phases of what is known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle, or ENSO. This phenomenon involves fluctuations in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the equatorial Pacific.
El Nino is sometimes referred to as the warm phase of ENSO, with La Nina acting as its cold opposite. WMO says both events have a major influence on weather and climate patterns over many parts of the world. (VOA)
A multipronged crackdown on the press continued throughout 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists concludes in a report published Thursday.
Imprisonment, intimidation and allegations that journalists produce “fake news” surged in 2016, when U.S. President Donald Trump won the election, CPJ found.
Trump has been a vocal critic of the press, often chastising journalists as “very dishonest people.”
The number of journalists in jail dipped 8 percent, from 272 in 2017 to 251 this year. But that doesn’t mean the situation has improved, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, told VOA.
The numbers fluctuate and may not reflect every imprisoned journalist. They also remain markedly higher than just a half decade ago.
More importantly, targeting a single journalist can have far-reaching repercussions.
“The effects are not only, obviously, [on] the journalists themselves and their families and their colleagues, but we really are talking about the effect on citizens as a whole,” Quintal said.
CPJ’s report highlighted several bright spots.
In Ethiopia, which has experienced dramatic reforms under new leader Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no journalists are currently known to be imprisoned, for the first time in 14 years.
Improvements in some countries, however, don’t necessarily rub off on others.
“Unfortunately, neighboring Eritrea remains the highest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, with 16 journalists in jail as we speak,” Quintal said.
Worldwide, report author Elana Beiser, CPJ’s editorial director, singled out China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as troublespots, highlighting how wide-ranging efforts to silence journalists have become.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Quintal’s region of focus, Cameroon, where seven journalists are in jail, is a new country of concern. At least four of those journalists faced false news charges in what Quintal called “a huge, huge setback.”
Overall, more than two dozen journalists have been charged with publishing false news, mainly in Africa.
Accusations and imprisonments can propel self-censorship, with profound effects on citizens’ right to information.
“When you see your colleagues being put in jail, when you see them accused of so-called fake news, when they’re being arrested on false news charges,” Quintal said, “it does, obviously, have a chilling effect.”
Quintal herself was targeted, along with colleague Muthoki Mumo, in Tanzania last month.
Despite having an invitation letter from the Media Council of Tanzania, the two, both former journalists, were detained and interrogated.
Quintal, from South Africa, and Mumo, from Kenya, were kept in custody for five hours.
“We were lucky because we were able to leave Tanzania,” Quintal said, contrasting her experience to journalists in the country who have gone missing or continue to face intimidation.
“The abusive nature of what happened to us showed the world the true nature of what is going on in Tanzania at the moment,” she added.
Quintal and Mumo’s case was unusual. Governments tend to target their own citizens, and journalists imprisoned by their governments make up 98 percent of cases, CPJ concluded. They also found that 13 percent of journalists in jail are women, an 8 percent increase from 2017.
Despite worrying signs, there is room for optimism, Quintal said.
When new leaders come to power, she said, human rights and press freedoms can improve very quickly.