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El Niño

On this week’s news update: a spotlight on climate change. A global climate change conference in Poland, the El Niño weather system predicted, and innovation in air travel that could cut down on pollution.

Global climate change meeting

Government representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Poland to try to agree how to tackle climate change.

The meeting has a very long name: the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or “COP24” for short). There’s a lot to agree on – for example, how to reduce the pollution produced by burning coal and oil, and how to increase countries’ use of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.

But it’s not just world leaders at COP24. Greta Thunberg is a 15-year-old activist from Sweden who has been skipping school every Friday to protest outside the conference. She has a message about climate change for the adults at the meeting: “It’s the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced, and we need to do something now, because tomorrow it might be too late.”

El Niño predicted

A group of meteorologists, or weather scientists, has predicted the world might soon experience some pretty unusual weather, caused by a phenomenon known as El Niño.

During El Niño, winds that push warm surface water into the western Pacific Ocean become weaker. This changes which parts of the ocean are warmest, which greatly impacts on weather all over the world. For example, areas that normally get lots of rain can run out of fresh water otherwise known as a drought. Meanwhile, lots of rain can fall in places that are normally very dry, causing flooding. El Niño events occur every few years, but their effects are becoming more extreme with increased global warming.

By predicting that another one is likely, scientists can help communities to prepare for the unusual weather.

Fuel-free aircraft

It’s hard to imagine an aeroplane without propellers or loud jets.

But, scientists at MIT, in Massachusetts, USA, have successfully developed a prototype – or working model – of an aircraft that doesn’t need any moving parts or fuel in order to fly. Inspired by spaceships from science fiction, the plane uses electricity to push air backwards, creating an unbalanced force that drives the aircraft forwards. Because it has no moving parts, the plane is almost silent. It also causes much less pollution than a jet engine!

As impressive as it is, the team says it will take many years of work to create a passenger-sized version of their design.

Learn more…

Agreement and positive action are needed in Poland to combat climate change. Alongside governments making changes, we will need more scientists like those at MIT who are finding ways we can live with less pollution. Without this important work, we can expect weather events like El Niño to become more frequent and more intense. Learn more about the devastating effects of El Niño with this Twig Film.