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Interesting and Amusing Facts about El Niño 2015-2016 and Our Responsibilities

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El Niño weather cycle phenomenon
El Niño weather cycle phenomenon

Posted on Wednesday, February 03, 2016
By: J.P. Mascaro & Sons
Categories: Main Category

Some fascinating, mystifying, and amusing facts about the El Niño weather cycle phenomenon and why we should pay attention

Seems it never rains in southern California”, pined Albert Hammond in his 1972 Billboard chart topper. Perhaps coincidentally, 1972 was a La Niña weather-pattern year, the coin-flip antithesis of the intense El Niño pattern that we are currently riding out in the winter of 2015-2016. Such is not the case this season with California suffering severe drought over the summer months, followed by floods and mud slides.

The average August-through-October sea-surface temperature of 2015 was the second-highest ever recorded, transcended only by the winter of 1997 (when Elton John, Jewel and Puff Daddy eclectically topped the charts).

Fishermen from the Peruvian coastline initially penned the El Niño ocean-atmosphere phenomenon in 1892 (sorry, way prior to the birth of the Billboard charts) when they reported to their government an abnormally warm ocean current that ran along the western coast of South America around Christmas time.   El Niño translates to “The Boy” or “Christ Child”, due to the Christmas timing of the event.

Sail forward a century plus to 1998 when an unsuspecting Nipomo, California man named Alfonso Niño – a retired submarine crewman who was listed in the phonebook as “Al Niño” – received numerous fiery phone calls. “Why are you doing this?” (often accompanied by heated expletives) was the resounding theme of each candid call according to Niño, who garnered an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman as a result.

But seriously, what exactly is it? In short, El Niño is a semi-regular intermittent large-scale warming of the Pacific Ocean which occurs every two to seven years and can last from nine months to two years. Throughout the cycle, the median temperature of the ocean’s surface is approximately a half-of-a degree higher than normal for a period of five months in a region of the Pacific Ocean approximately halfway between Peru and Papua New Guinea. In some regions, this triggers an increase in precipitation, floods, and hurricanes.

Fascinating facts of El Niño:

  • Contrary to popular belief, global warming does not cause El Niño patterns. They are a natural climate change that occurs in regular intervals.

  • El Niño occurrences adversely affect sea life and – subsequently – the livelihood of seafaring fishermen.

  • El Niño causes floods, droughts, thunderstorms, punishing rainfall, mild Canadian winters, lowered cyclone and hurricane activity, and dryer-than-normal monsoons.

  • The United States generally experiences wetter and cooler weather, with California commonly experiencing much wetter weather.

  • No one is certain why El Niño occurs or why it occurs in a regular cycle every two to seven years.

  • Disease outbreaks, especially those of the mosquito-borne variety (i.e. the new-found Zika virus of 2015), have been linked to the El Niño cycle due to higher rainfall and flooding activities in certain regions.

  • El Niño and La Niña are among the most powerful earth phenomena, possessing the ability to change the climate across more than 50% of the earth.

  • Midwestern tornadoes are less common during El Niño cycles.

  • El Niños tend to create harsh Australian droughts and force sea birds to land in abnormal locations.

So why is El Niño 2015 (with Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk on the Billboard charts) so intense? This year’s global impacts have already recorded flooding in Somalia, a super-dry South Africa, coral bleaching, and the highest number of forest fires Indonesia has experienced since 1997. Here in the Northeast United States we’ve been riding a record rollercoaster with warm winter temperatures including a 70-degree Christmas Eve, followed by a record January snowfall, followed by record warmth the first week of February. It’s all documented in the charts (the weather charts that is, not the Billboard charts).

The absolute strongest El Niño winters on record have been 1982-1983, 1997-1998, and now 2015-2016. Indeed it is true that El Niño events occur systematically and naturally. However, they still provide a compelling reason for mankind to consider diminishing our impact on the planet to ensure that we do not exceed its natural limits.

Although there is no direct correlation between purported global warming and the El Niño cycle, common decency and respect for those who succeed us on this rock tells us not to disrespect Mother Earth. Here are just a few wise practices that we all need to follow, support, and encourage:

After all, we only get one run at this and it’s our responsibility to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren (our Niños y Nietos should you prefer).

Tagged:Green, Recycle, Recycling, Sustainability, Environment, Compost, Composting, Evironmental Responsibility, Weather, Global Warming, Earth, Planet

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