Vision Magazine - October/November 2023


El Niño is Coming What to expect from Chilean and Peruvian agriculture over the coming months.


E l Niño, a climate phenom- enon, is marked by warm- er-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Its counterpart, La Niña occurs during cooler-than-average conditions. Both meteorological events generally develop between April and June and typically peak from October through February. These climatic episodes sustain for about nine to twelve months and tend to recur every two to seven years. However, not every El Niño event leads to wet conditions. Furthermore, no two El Niño or La Niña episodes are alike. Their interactions with other regional climatic elements can be quite complex, largely because of the unpredictable interplay between oceanic and atmospheric processes. This level of unpredictability height- ens risks to agriculture, affecting crops differently based on their respective growth stages. El Niño’s ramifications on agri - culture in Chile and Peru — two of the biggest fresh produce suppliers

to the North American market — are multifaceted and varied. There are advantages, like the prospect of more rainfall suitable for long-term storage and an uptick in groundwater recharge rates. However, there are also dis- advantages, including the risk of floods, landslides, widespread crop damage and a surge in crop diseases and pests. The intensity and scope of these impacts are predominant- ly influenced by the geographical location. For instance, during El Niño episodes, both Chile and northern Peru generally witness a spike in pre- cipitation levels, leading to increased runoff, paired with warmer tempera - tures in spring and summer. However, an intense El Niño phenomenon doesn’t automatically equate to significant local repercus - sions; anomaly probabilities often diverge from the main event’s pre- dictions. To illustrate, the 1997 and 2015 El Niño episodes were particu- larly robust, often termed “El Niño Godzilla,” yet Chile’s annual rainfall

in 2015 was remarkably average. With such erratic climate patterns looming, agricultural planning be- comes a daunting task for farmers in these regions, regardless of whether they anticipate drier or wetter con- ditions. Beyond the routine agricul- tural tasks like planting, irrigation, harvesting and processing, managers are now squarely facing a formidable challenge: risk management. Risk is the combination of hazards (like variations in precipitation, unex- pected frosts and intense heat waves), vulnerability (measuring how well the system can withstand these hazards), and exposure (indicating the extent to which the system remains open to

30 Vision Magazine

October/November 2023

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