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Phenomenon El Niño Causes Catastrophe in Peru

Weather conditions in Peru have been incredibly disastrous for the past 5 weeks. Mudslides, abnormally heavy rains, and floods have left over 150,000 people without a home—or missing—and 100 people dead. These mudslides are sweeping away everything that gets in their way, including roads, bridges, and houses, looking much like an apocalyptic scene. But what is causing these abnormal weather conditions? Let’s take a closer look at what has been happening in this South American country.

Catastrophic floods and mudslides in Peru

To start off, it’s worth mentioning that Peru is comprised of three regions: the coast, the highlands, and the jungle, which is the most tropical region of the country and forms part of the Amazon. The highlands and the jungle both expect heavy rains and storms while the coast does not, and they have developed a draining system. Despite the coast’s dryness, every several years, a phenomenon called El Niño makes its presence known by increasing the temperatures of usually-cold regions and decreasing the temperatures of the usually hot ones through waters of the Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon not only affects temperature, but also causes heavy rains, storms, and floods in the northern coast of the country.

However, this is not the typical El Niño occurrence, as the most recent event ended almost a year ago. Scientists are now calling this series of catastrophic events, which have recently extended through Colombia, a Coastal-El Niño. This is a smaller-scale phenomenon but maintains the same characteristics of El Niño. Waters 4-5°C (39-41°F) warmer than usual are causing much denser precipitation in the northern coast of Peru, leading to the disastrous floods and mudslides.

Although it is not yet clear what is causing this abnormal weather pattern, one of the best-fitting explanations is global warming, since, according to the website Inside Climate News, these floods and mudslides are consistent with the extreme weather supposedly caused by climate change.

Editor: Rachel Levy