Although it is months ahead of schedule, weather experts say that the first effects of an El Niño are being felt on Ecuador’s coast.
“We weren’t expecting it this soon but all the signs show that we are in the initial phase of El Niño,” said Jose Luis Santos, director of climate change studies at the Coastal Polytechnic University.
According to Santos, the weather on the coast in June, July and August should be dry, cool and mostly cloudy. Instead it has been sunnier in the mornings with heavy rains in the afternoons. In addition he says, temperatures are two to three degrees above the seasonal norm, one of the signs of El Niño.
Ecuador’s meteorological office, INAMHI, agrees that signs of El Niño are growing, but is waiting to issue an official notice. It has alerted the risk management offices along the coast to rush El Niño preparations to conclusion.
To date, Esmeraldas and Manabi Provinces have been the most affected by the unseasonable weather, receiving heavy rainfall that has pushed rivers to capacity and caused local flooding. On Monday, Esmeraldas experienced torrential rain in the afternoon that was preceded by a sunny morning, and a high temperature of 30 degees Celcius, three degrees above normal.
Director of Risk Management in the town of Quinindé, Dolores Villegas, said there was flooding in the town center Monday. “It is strange weather for this time of year,” she said. “We were not expecting El Niño this soon.”
Similar conditions have been reported near Manta. Xavier Valencia, Ecuador Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, says he’s concerned about crops in the area. “Too much rain could devastate some agriculture in the region,” he said. “The weather is atypical; now we should be in full cool, dry season, but we are feeling the humidity and experiencing sweltering heat,” he said.
Towns receiving the most rainfall are on the north coast and include Pedernales, Tosagua, Chone, Flavio Alfaro, Junín and El Carmen.
Although Santa Elena Province on the south coast has so far escaped the heaviest rains Santos believe they are on the way.