Exceptionally warm water has been increasing in the Pacific creating a perfect storm for the strongest El Nino since 1997, meteorologists calling it “Godzilla El Nino”.
El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America. El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures, as measured by sea surface temperature, SST, of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific. The ENSO cycle, both El Niño and La Niña, causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall. Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study.
Developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected. In Spanish, the capitalized term “El Niño” refers to the Christ child, Jesus (literal translation “The (male) Child”). La Niña, chosen as the ‘opposite’ of El Niño, literally means “The (female) Child”. El Niño was so named because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is often noticed around Christmas.
A recent study has reported a robust tendency to more frequent extreme El Niños, occurring in agreement with a separate recent model prediction for the future.