June 6 (UPI) -- New research suggests El Niño and global warming combined to push temperatures past record highs during April 2016 in Southeast Asia.
Researchers at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics built models to determine to what extent El Niño was responsible for Southeast Asia extreme temperatures.
Their analysis found El Niño, a climate pattern marked by a mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, was to blame for roughly two-thirds of the region's heat wave, while global warming accounted for the remaining third.
In recent years, climate scientists have improved models used to quantify the link between climate change and extreme weather phenomena like heat waves. The latest models were supplied with climate data collected by both land and ocean monitors.
"The El Niño system primes mainland Southeast Asia for extremes, although long-term warming is undoubtedly exacerbating these hot Aprils," lead researcher Kaustubh Thirumalai, a postdoctoral fellow at UTIG, said in a news release.
Statistical analysis methods helped researchers tease out the impact of El Niño and global warming on spring temperatures in Southeast Asia. Their analysis of April highs over the last 50 years showed 15 of 16 corresponded with an El Niño pattern. But while the strength of El Niño fluctuated, the growing influence of global warming was steady.
"Because of long-term warming, even a weaker El Niño than the 2015-16 event in the mid-to-late 21st century could cause bigger impacts," said Pedro DiNezio, a research associate at UTIG.
Scientists published their analysis in the journal Nature Communications.