El Niño

Usually the Earth’s warmest water can be found in the western Pacific, with the east-to-west trade winds pushing the warm water toward Indonesia. Every so often, however, the trade winds weaken and the warm water ends up sloshing eastward against the coast of South America. These oceanic changes cause disruptions in jet-stream winds and effect global weather conditions. This is the occasional weather pattern known as El Niño.

ENN: El Niño Special5 stars

This special report from the Environmental News Network gets high marks on both content and presentation. Why the sudden El Niño hubbub? Is this a recent weather phenomenon? No, but our ability to forecast, measure and understand the El Niño forces has increased tremendously in the last decade. Peruvian fishermen were the first to notice that roughly every two to seven years their normally cold waters would become warm, and the usual south-to-north current was reversed. These conditions wrecked havoc with the fish population, and were an economic disaster for the fisherman. Because these weather variations generally occurred in December, they were named "El Nino" (boy child) after the infant Jesus.

Get to Know our Ocean Planet4 stars

Since its launch into orbit in August 1992, the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite has mapped 95% of the ocean's surface topography, noting liquid hills and valleys. From its vantage point 826 miles above us, TOPEX/Poseidon can measure sea surface height within two inches. The birth of El Niño can be seen in Pacific Ocean snapshots from the fall of 1994 that show both increases and decreases in normal sea height.

NOAA El Niño Theme Page3 stars

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's mission is to analyze changes in the Earth's environment, and conserve our nation's marine resources. To that end, they are keeping a close eye on El Niño. Filled with graphs and technical explanations, this site is an excellent starting point for advanced research. For example, you can view real-time data such as ocean temperatures transmitted via satellite from buoys in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Wow! For the rest of us, I recommend their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

StormFax Weather Almanac3 stars

The 1982/1983 El Niño was the most devastating weather event of this century, causing disasters on nearly every continent. Africa, Australia and Indonesia suffered droughts, dust storms and brush fires. Peru was showered with eleven feet of rain in areas where six inches was normal. What will this year's El Niño bring? At the bottom of the Almanac page, you'll find links to two U.S. maps showing expected temperature and rainfall variations for the coming season. You'll see the anticipated cold spell across the entire South (from the Pacific to the Atlantic), with warmer than usual temperatures expected in the central North from Montana to Kansas.

USA TODAY: What is El Niño?5 stars

Known for their excellent national weather coverage, this El Niño report from USA TODAY does not disappoint. Illustrated with animated graphics, you'll find all the basics here from how El Niño began and how it works, to El Niño's history and some weather predictions.

Honorable Mentions

The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!

Hot Air Over Hot Water

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "El Niño." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 30 Sep. 1997. Web. 3 Sep. 2015. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/resources/elnino/ >.

About This Page

By . Originally published September 30, 1997. Last modified September 30, 1997.

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