Lan Palm trees are flowering in Thab Lan National Park, Prachin Buri province. Credit: DNP

The country’s last aged Lan Palm trees standing dead as El Niño shows up

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has projected July is set to be the hottest month on record whereas El Niño, which is predicted to further raise global temperatures, has shown itself up already

Lan Palm trees or Corypha lecomtei in the country’s last plot in Thab Lan National Park in Prachin Buri province have simultaneously blossomed, suggesting they would soon be dead following their natural life cycle. But several age-old and infertile trees are rushing the process along with the fertile ones, suggesting to the scientists at the National Parks Department that the ongoing warmer weather could be behind their untimely flowering.

The phenomenon was first observed early this week by Thab Lan chief before the department issued an order to examine it. The department was reported back by its scientists that the palm trees were reaching their last life cycle. Normally, the trees could grow and last from 20 to 80 years. They will then flower and die. 

The palm trees at Thab Lan are entering a similar process as they are aged around 60 years old, the scientists noted. They are flowing almost at the same time, suggesting that they are from the same parents. However, several infertile and aged trees are also found to be flowering along with the others, suggesting to the scientists that they are facing some stress from the warmer temperature, the scientists said.

So far, over 10,000 of them are found to be flowering. The scientists said this is a good opportunity for people to learn about the phenomenon and help disperse the seeds of the trees so they can have more chances to survive.

Thab Lan is the only place where this ancient tree is found growing. The tree is endemic to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, where it grows in dry forests, and in open spaces along small rivers and streams, up to an altitude of about 600 meters.

Credit: WMO

El Niño on its way

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), meanwhile, has issued its latest warning, saying the month of July is on track to be the hottest July and the hottest month on record. Based on the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the first three weeks of July have been the warmest three-week period, the organisation said yesterday.

These temperatures have been related to heatwaves in large parts of North America, Asia and Europe, which along with wildfires in countries including Canada and Greece, have had major impacts on people’s health, the environment and economies, the orgnisation noted.

According to the organisation, El Niño conditions since early this month have developed in the tropical Pacific for the first time in seven years, setting the stage for a likely surge in global temperatures and disruptive weather and climate patterns. There is a 90% probability of the El Niño event continuing during the second half of 2023, and it is expected to be at least of moderate strength, the organisation noted. 

“The onset of El Niño will greatly increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records and triggering more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the ocean,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“The declaration of an El Niño by WMO is the signal to governments around the world to mobilize preparations to limit the impacts on our health, our ecosystems and our economies. Early warnings and anticipatory action of extreme weather events associated with this major climate phenomenon are vital to save lives and livelihoods.”

El Niño occurs on average every two to seven years, and episodes typically last nine to 12 months. It is a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

El Niño events are typically associated with increased rainfall in parts of southern South America, the southern United States, the Horn of Africa and central Asia. In contrast, El Niño can also cause severe droughts over Australia, Indonesia, parts of southern Asia, Central America and northern South America.

Credit: WMO

Generally, El Niño has the opposite effect of the recent La Niña, which ended earlier in 2023. It takes place in the context of a climate changed by human activities, the WMO noted.

In anticipation of the El Niño event, a WMO report in May predicted that there is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be warmest on record, beating the record set in 2016 when there was an exceptionally strong El Niño. (Read: El Niño likely increasing later this year: WMO)

The WMO report also noted that there is a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will temporarily be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. 

“This is not to say that in the next five years, we would exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement because that agreement refers to long-term warming over many years. 

“However, it is yet another wake-up call, or an early warning, that we are not yet going in the right direction to limit the warming to within the targets set in Paris in 2015 designed to substantially reduce the impacts of climate change” said WMO Director of Climate Services Prof. Chris Hewitt.

According to WMO’s State of the Global Climate reports, 2016 is the warmest year on record because of the “double whammy” of a very powerful El Niño event and human-induced warming from greenhouse gases. The effect on global temperatures usually plays out in the year after its development and so will likely be most apparent in 2024. The average global temperature in 2022 was about 1.15 °C above the 1850-1900 average because of the cooling triple-dip La Niña.

 UN secretary general, António Guterres has said of the situation; “The era of global warming has ended and the era of “global boiling” has arrived.”

Sources: WMO/ The Guardian