El Niño

El Niño

The world’s weather can be completely thrown off balance by a chaotic weather extraordinary event known as El Niño (El-NEEN-yo).

El Niño’s influence on the weather is second only to the changing of the seasons.  It is a complex, irregular series of climatic changes affecting southern hemisphere.

The phenomenon appears every three to seven years manifesting as a huge pool of warm water in the Pacific Ocean west of South America.  El Niño may come as frequently as every two years or as rarely as every seven years. Typically, Each El Niño usually lasts from nine to 12 months. El Niño begins to form in spring, reaches peak strength between December and January, and then declines by the month of May of the following year.

The huge clouds and enormous rainstorms associated with warm ocean waters shift toward the east. The energy released by the warm waters into the atmosphere causes weather to change all over the planet.

El Niño is named by the fisherman who lived in Peru.  Because it always seemed to happen around the time of Christmas.

Peruvian fisherman called it El Niño, which in Spanish means “the boy.”

El Niño refers to the Christ child who was born on Christmas Day.  It was given the name El Niño for a warming effect.  The climate records of El Niño go back millions of years, with evidence of the cycle found in ice cores, deep-sea muds, coral, caves and tree rings.

El Niño’s arrival causes some strange things to happen including increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in South America, especially Peru.  The opposite, which is a drought in Australia causes devastating brush fires.

We still don’t completely understand what causes El Niño, the weather event is not always the same.

The atmosphere and ocean do not have the same patterns from one El Niño to another.  The most recent El Niño happened in late 2015 and continued into 2016. It was one of the three strongest on record.

Scientists try to forecast an El Niño by monitoring temperatures of the ocean.  They watch for the temperature shift from the western Pacific to the eastern Pacific. For example, in spring 2014, a warm water swell called a “Kelvin wave” crossed the Pacific.  Weather forecasters predicted a powerful El Niño for the winter of 2014. However, storms and trade winds never followed the predicted pattern, and the El Niño failed to develop.

Monitoring the temperature will help scientists determine the next El Niño.

We are never totally sure when it will return.

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