El Nino, which literally translates to ‘the boy’, is a well-known weather phenomenon that occurs periodically in the tropical Pacific Ocean, affecting global weather patterns. During El Nino, significant changes in oceanic and atmospheric conditions take place that is caused by weakened trade winds which eventually lead to warm surface waters moving east and accumulating in the central and eastern Pacific.
A rare and more intense form of El Nino is dubbed super El Nino, which has far-reaching impacts on various aspects of our environment, including our indoor air quality. By being aware of the effects super El Nino can have on indoor air quality and taking proactive steps to mitigate its impact, we can create a safer and healthier environment for our loved ones.
Understanding Super El Nino
As mentioned above, super El Nino is an exceptionally strong and prolonged El Nino phenomenon that is characterised by intensified weather anomalies and severe disruptions to global weather patterns.
Although El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a super El Nino stands out due to its increased intensity and prolonged duration, leading to impacts on worldwide weather and ecosystems.
Characteristics of Super El Nino
- Intensified ocean temperatures: Super El Nino leads to even higher sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean compared to a typical El Nino phenomenon.
- Prolonged durations: The phenomenon persists for an extended period of time, longer than that of a regular El Nino. This prolonged period will have implications on rain, temperature and other weather events for months on end.
- Enhanced rainfall variability: Super El Nino can bring about extreme and uncertain rainfall variability across different regions.
What causes a Super El Nino?
Primarily caused by complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific region. The exact triggers of a super El Nino are not yet fully understood. Scientists have weakened trade winds and climate change to be a key factor that contributes to its occurrence.
Weakened trade winds
Trade winds or also known as easterlies, are the winds that blow permanently from east to west. When these winds are weakened or even reversed, it causes less warm surface water to be pushed to the west and less cold water to be pulled to the surface in the east. As there is now more warm surface water in the west, it adds extra heat into the air as the air rises with more vigour.
Eventually, a disruption in the oceanic and atmospheric circulation occurs.
As El Nino is currently already taking place in many parts of the world, it adds further heat to our planet, which is already becoming warmer under climate change. As the world is already experiencing rising temperatures, the occurrence of El Nino will only serve to raise temperatures further.
Scientists believe that 2024 is likely to be the world’s hottest year.
The effects of Super El Nino on indoor air quality
It’s understood that super El Nino has detrimental effects on the environment that include a drastic increase in the risk of flooding in certain parts of the world, an increase in droughts, vast and unpredictable amounts of rainfall, temporary global warming and globally experienced heatwaves.
All of these effects experienced in the environment will undoubtedly make their way into our homes, causing everyday Australians to experience a different level of indoor air quality, such as those below.
Increased heat and humidity
With the elevated temperatures experienced globally, higher humidity levels may become inevitable, especially in regions directly affected by the phenomenon like Australasia. These conditions tend to increase the likeliness of heatwaves and bushfires that can bring about a host of new problems health and environmental problems, most notably the destruction of wildlife brought about by bushfires and the subsequent air pollution it brings.
READ MORE: How humidity affects your health
Changes in outdoor air quality
Changes in outdoor air will subsequently make their way indoors. Weather anomalies that are a result of El Nino, such as wildfires, dust storms, and droughts, can release pollutants and particulate matter into the air, which will, in turn, compromise indoor air quality. The use of air purifiers indoors can help mitigate the spread of these pollutants and keep your indoor air clean.
More allergens in the air
In regards to the first point of increased heat and humidity, warm and humid conditions generally create ideal breeding grounds for more allergens such as dust mites, pollen and mould spores. These can trigger allergic reactions and increase the chances of respiratory diseases, impacting the overall health and well-being of inhabitants, especially if the ventilation in the affected area is poor.
Surviving Super El Nino
Although the phenomenon is not something we have control over, there are some proactive steps that we can take to mitigate its effects on indoor air quality.
Maintain good ventilation
Ensuring proper air circulation by opening up windows, using fans or air conditioning systems can help improve air quality, remove excess moisture, regulate temperatures and also reduce indoor air pollutants, among other benefits.
As conditions get too humid, the presence of allergens can proliferate. Maintaining good ventilation is key to controlling moisture issues but employing a dehumidifier is an efficient alternative, as humidity or moisture levels can be controlled based on the user’s preferences.
Regular cleaning and maintenance
Regular cleaning and maintenance activities can help remove dust, allergens and other pollutants that may have settled down on surfaces.
Using air purifiers
The presence of airborne pollutants, including pollen, dust mites and even smoke particles (if there was a nearby bushfire), can make their way into your home through open windows or even from coming back home after being outside. Ionmax air purifiers get rid of 99.97% of microscopic allergens and germs as small as 0.3 microns.
READ MORE: How effective are air purifiers for El Nino?
Lessen outdoor activity during the day
Reducing your time spent outdoors during the day can help you cope with the effects of El Nino, but it is not the solution. By reducing time spent outdoors, you’ll avoid potentially hazardous weather conditions.
Staying hydrated is important at all times, but its significance increases during El Nino to cope with the intense heat. Staying hydrated allows for the regulation of body temperature, supports physical endurance, maintains cognitive function and promotes overall health. Apart from drinking plenty of water, avoid excessively sugary products as they can contribute to dehydration.
To make better-informed decisions regarding indoor activities, stay up to date with local weather conditions and air quality reports.
In a nutshell
The occurrence of a super El Nino brings about significant changes in global weather patterns, impacting various aspects of the environment, including indoor air quality. The effects of the phenomenon can lead to increased heat and humidity, changes in outdoor air quality and also the presence of more allergens.
Maintaining good ventilation, regular cleaning, the use of air purifiers and being in the know can help Australians cope with the phenomenon and help make informed decisions.
By implementing these strategies and prioritising the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones, we can navigate through Super El Nino and create healthier living spaces.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.