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Mild El Nino Event May be Upcoming: Scientists

El Nino and La Nina are phases of what is known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle, or ENSO.

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FILE - A farmer works in an irrigated field near the village of Botor, Somaliland, April 16, 2016. Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by the severe El Nino-related drought.-VOA

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.

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El Nino weather is sometimes referred to as the warm phase of ENSO. VOA

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.”

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An aerial view of a flooded village on the outskirts of Allahabad, India, August 24, 2016. REUTERS

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.

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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)

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Leader of New Climate Panel Calls For ‘Bold Action’

The climate panel is separate from an effort by Democrats to launch a Green New Deal to transform the U.S. economy and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.

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In this April 1, 2014 file photo, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., talks during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

It does not yet have office space, staff or even Republican members, but Florida Rep. Kathy Castor is confident that a special House committee on climate change will play a leading role on one of the most daunting challenges facing the planet.

Castor, who chairs the new panel, says those early obstacles can be overcome as lawmakers move to reduce carbon pollution and create clean-energy jobs.

“The Democratic caucus is unified under the belief we have to take bold action on the climate crisis,” Castor said in an interview.

While that can take many forms, the transition to renewable energy such as wind and solar power is “job one,” she said.

Castor, who’s in her seventh term representing the Tampa Bay area, said Congress has a “moral obligation” to protect future generations from the costly effects of climate change, including more severe hurricanes, a longer wildfire season and a dangerous sea-level rise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Castor to lead the panel in December, saying she brings experience, energy and urgency to what Pelosi called “the existential threat of the climate crisis” facing the United States and the world.

The climate panel is similar to one Pelosi created when Democrats last controlled the House from 2007 to 2010. The panel was eliminated when Republicans took the majority in 2011.

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“The Democratic caucus is unified under the belief we have to take bold action on the climate crisis,” Castor said in an interview. Pixabay

While the previous panel played a key role in House approval of a landmark 2009 bill to address global warming, Castor said the new panel is likely to focus on a variety of actions rather than a single piece of legislation.

She and the eight other Democrats named to the panel “are ready to stand up to corporate polluters and special interests” as they press for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move toward a clean-energy economy, Castor said.

“Climate deniers, fossil fuel companies and other special interests have had an outsized influence” in Congress in recent years, she said, promising to “stand up” to those forces to protect the environment and create green jobs.

The climate panel is separate from an effort by Democrats to launch a Green New Deal to transform the U.S. economy and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.

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Pelosi agreed, saying in a statement that the climate panel will “spearhead Democrats’ work to develop innovative, effective solutions to prevent and reverse the climate crisis.” Pixabay

Castor dismissed the idea that the Green New Deal — put forth by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and veteran Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts — will conflict with the climate panel.

“My job and the committee’s job is to take the general concepts (of the Green New Deal) and turn them into a real policy framework and legislative language and eventually law,” she said.

Pelosi agreed, saying in a statement that the climate panel will “spearhead Democrats’ work to develop innovative, effective solutions to prevent and reverse the climate crisis.”

Pelosi invited Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star and the best-known member of the large class of freshman Democrats, to join the climate panel, but she declined, saying she wants to focus on the Green New Deal and other committee assignments.

Three freshmen — Sean Casten of Illinois, Mike Levin of California and Joe Neguse of Colorado — serve on the panel, along with veteran lawmakers such as Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and Californians Julia Brownley and Jared Huffman, both close Pelosi allies.

“We need their passion and energy, and we need support from all corners all across the country,” Castor said of the freshmen members. “It’s all hands on deck right now.”

Republicans have not named anyone to the climate committee, but six GOP members are expected to join the panel this month.

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While the earlier climate panel focused on establishing the threat posed by climate change, Castor said the time to debate climate science is long past.

While she would have preferred that the committee be given subpoena power and legislative authority to draft their own bills, the panel’s more limited power “is not going to hamper us,” Castor said. Most invited witnesses will be eager to testify, she said, and those who resist — including members of the Trump administration — can be compelled to appear by other committees such as Energy and Commerce or Natural Resources.

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While the earlier climate panel focused on establishing the threat posed by climate change, Castor said the time to debate climate science is long past.

“People understand the problems,” she said. “They see the effects of sea rise and more dangerous storms. They understand it. They look at Washington and kind of throw up their hands and say, ‘Why don’t you guys do something?’ ”

The committee’s challenge, she added, will be “to restore the faith of people and show them Washington can do some things.” (VOA)