Here is a simple explanation. El Niño is a
climate pattern that involves the surface of the ocean and the
atmosphere in the Pacific Ocean. Warm water along the equator, off the
coast of South America, displaced colder water usually found in the
Humboldt Current (Sometimes spelt as Humbolt) , which
is farther north.
The Humboldt Current carries plankton-rich, cold, Antarctic
waters that are responsible for both the weather and the productivity of
the Peruvian coast. The 13-17C (55-63F) waters, flowing from the
southwest, carry huge quantities of plankton which provide a solid base
for a diverse food chain of enormous biomass. Winds carry the surface
waters away from the coast, resulting in the exposure of the colder
subsurface waters. This upwelling, although present throughout the coast
of Peru, occurs intensively at four sites, one of which is the Paracas
On the contrary, periodic shifts in the regional wind patterns known as
El Niño can cause major changes in weather and biological
conditions, involving the occurrence of warm water, excessive rainfall,
floods, erosion, mudslides, and depletion or emigration of many species
of fish and seabirds.
According to scientists, the sea temperatures off the
coast of tropical South America have become three to five degrees higher
El Niño climate conditions occur every few years, and they are
not predictable. The climate pattern is important because it can change
the weather of the United States, particularly in California and the
Usually, though not always, El Niño brings
more rain and higher temperatures. Also, warm ocean currents come
farther north and all kinds of tropical fish can be caught in the waters
far north along the United States West Coast.
Recent years in which El Niño events have
occurred are 1951, 1953, 1957-1958, 1965, 1969, 1972-1973, 1976,
1982-1983, 1986-1987, 1991-1992, 1994 and 1997. The high sea surface
temperatures and the magnitude of the westerly wind anomalies over the
Pacific are very high. These conditions suggest that the strength of
1997 El Niño event could equal or surpass that in 1982-1983,
making it the strongest El Niño this century.
In 1982-1983, The El Niño of 1982-83 was
responsible for the loss of nearly 2,000 lives and displacement of
hundreds of thousands from their homes. The losses were caused by
droughts and fires in Australia, Southern Africa, Central America,
Indonesia, the Philippines, South America and India. There were floods
in the USA, Gulf of Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba. More
hurricanes than usual affected Hawaii and Tahiti.
Niño may also bring warmer than normal winter temperatures to the
eastern part of the United States.
El Niño is Spanish for The Little Boy. It
refers to the Christ child and was named by Mexican fisherman, who
noticed the climate pattern often formed around Christmas Period.