Ride the wave

By | Sport
Surfing an el nino wave.Credit@seekingalpha.com

Climate change and El Niño may be creating inspiring experiences for sports enthusiasts.

An El Niño event takes place when stored warm water rises to the surface in the Pacific Ocean. Unpredictable in nature, occurring every 2-7 years and lasting between 9 months and two years, the accurate prediction of an approaching El Niño may allow sport enthusiasts time to plan for this uncommon and formidable force of nature. Preparedness may be necessary when el Niño conditions might be evanescent, when a full episode far from eventuates.

The regional nature of this power may encourage those with a desire to “chase the wave” to travel to areas experiencing El Niño conditions, usually during these phenomena opposite events are taking place elsewhere in the world as the climate is infinitely networked. Each El Nino has a unique character bringing different elements, something, which sports fans may need to be aware of to fully seize the fruits of the phenomenon.

Skiing on el nino snow.Credit@timuzapatawikipedia

Skiing on el nino snow.Credit@timuzapatawikipedia

Sporting events reliant on the forces of nature may have benefitted from the effects of El Niño with an enthusiasm and anticipation by promoters absent in familiar media reporting on climate change. With the climate warming and the transient nature of El Niño’s becoming more intense and frequent, the weather associated may have favourable effects which might make specific sports more exhilarating and may yield unexpected advantages. Being able to recognise the benefits, which the phenomena may bring, may lead to new technologies, devices or even sports, to take advantage of these potentially unforeseen weather elements, in the past inventions include for instance windsurf boards or gliders.

The Western USA is a region, which benefits from the El Niño season because of its location close to the Pacific, a 50% rise in precipitation is observed during these periods. In 2016 skiers realised the highest snowfall seen for years, resulting in a higher than average snowpack and countering the earlier suggestion of how the snowpack was at its most diminished in 500 years. The impact on snow resorts is remarkable considering recent weather patterns; economically it may be a boost for the area, as many families buy skis, snowboards and other equipment. Studies have shown how the ski industry has a better chance of adaptation and higher level of security due to climate change in some regions.

Surfers have described the recent El Niño as one of the strongest experienced, many claiming the waves have been the largest ever seen. On the Pacific coast of California surfers additionally noticed far warmer ocean temperatures, this being pertinent as the El Niño started and ended over the 2015-2016 winter.

The kelvin waves seen when warm water is pulsated across the pacific are a key sign of an approaching El Niño, this happens when strong westerly trade winds allow the energy to be released towards the coastlines of Western USA and Canada. These kelvin waves known as “planetary waves” are unique; far from curling and breaking, are more like the waves in a bathtub and change the height of the sea surface. Nonetheless these waves are a key signal to surfers of impending El Niño conditions.

Glider riding the thermal waves.Credit@Kawiorwikipedia

Glider riding the thermal waves.Credit@Kawiorwikipedia

Air sports using the general effect of climate change outside of the ephemeral El Niño’s, may also be flourishing. Natural thermal systems may be more frequent due to warmer conditions. This may be apparent in the sport of gliding where stronger thermals and a higher extent of cloud cover mean pilots have set records for duration flown in recent times. The new Perlan project may take advantage of intense “mountain waves” remarkably aiming to put a glider on the edge of space at 90,000 feet. These greater thermals may assist the project and allow an understanding of the mountain waves which have helped create the ozone hole.

Encouragingly, the understanding of climate change and periodic climate events may contribute to an improved gratification of sport particularly in regions known to experience substantial El Niño effects.

How may sports adapt as the climate evolves?

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