El Nino is that distracting weather pattern that throws a curve into all your well laid plans. It occurs when there is an above average Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature and conditions in the atmosphere that change where the storms are going. All the normal forecasts and weather predictions have to be thrown out the window because El Nino is here.
The name El Nino is Spanish for “the Christ child”. In the late 1800’s the fisherman along the coast of Peru came up with the term to explain the warm winds and southward ocean currents that disrupted the normal circumstances of their fishing areas. Today the term has a more global meaning. It refers to the southern oscillation. This cycle is continual, but irregular. You may compare to some of the geysers in Yellowstone, they erupt, but not on a schedule. Let’s take a closer look at the southern oscillation.
In an El Nino year the pattern goes something like this. Air pressure drops over large areas of central Pacific ocean and along the coast of South Africa. The change in air pressure causes the normal pattern of the trade winds to reduce. This changes the ocean currents. An ocean current is the horizontal movement of seawater at the ocean’s surface. Currents are moved by the circulation of wind about the surface of the water.
On both sides of the equator in the ocean basins there are two west flowing currents. They are called the north and south equatorial currents. These flow between 3 and 6 kilometers per day. They normally run 100 to 200 meters below the ocean surface as well. In the El Nino year the currents intensify and cause havoc with normal weather patterns.
The warm pool and thunderstorms are normally up against south Asia in the Pacific Ocean. During El Nino these warm pools move out to the middle of the ocean or up against the coast of South American or somewhere else that it does not belong. So how does it affect the world? It depends on where you live and where the warm pools roam.
Sometimes the weather in Ecuador and Peru may experience floods through their normal desert terrain. In southern California where the water can’t be soaked up by the soil you may find flooding and giant mudslides. If you live in Seattle you may enjoy a warmer and drier winter than usually. Often there is less snow, which makes the skiers sad, but it’s great on the heating bill.
It seems like the more we try to control the weather, the more control it holds over us. The secret is probably to be prepared for the ebb and flow that is bound to come where weather is concerned. Be prepared for any kind of weather disaster and appreciate the strength and wisdom of Mother Nature.