El Niño is back. Here’s how it works.

El Niño is back. Here’s how it works.

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There’s one thing we all know about El Nino. FARLEY: El Nino is Spanish for The Nino But what IS the nino? So El Nino is this complex weather phenomenon
that occurs every 2 to 7 years in the Pacific. And it affects weather around the world. To understand how it works, it helps to know
about the normal conditions in this part of the ocean. You have these trade winds across the Pacific
that blow from South America all the way to Indonesia. Those winds cause warm water to pile up near
Indonesia, where the sea level is half a meter higher than it is in South America. But during an El Nino year… We don’t really understand why, but those
trade winds start to weaken. And that water that was all piled up over
by Indonesia starts sloshing back east. Scientists start seeing the water temperatures
in the central and eastern Pacific jump way above normal. And the rain follows that pool of warm water
toward the east. So that means less rain in Indonesia, Papua
New Guinea. You start getting droughts. You start getting more rain in places like
Peru where you start getting floods, mudslides. The warmer water off South America also hurts
the fishing industry. It was fishermen there who first gave El Nino
its name. Around the 1800s, these Peruvian fishermen
started noticing a warm current would appear around Christmas time. And they started calling it the christ child. So that’s El Nino. Yeah, baby Jesus. El Ninos can vary in strength , and strong
ones will noticeably affect weather in different ways all over the world. In Indonesia, the fires that people set to
clear land for agriculture burn out of control with less rain to put them out. And the warmer water in the Pacific fuels
storms there. So Hawaii got hit by a bunch of hurricanes
recently. Mexico got this record-strength hurricane. And all the way on the other side of the globe,
El Nino upends rain patterns in Eastern and Southern Africa, where food insecurity is
already high. The lack of rainfall and subsequent drought has led to a massive spike in food and water needs across the country. El Nino and its inverse, La Nina, also tend
to show up in global average temperatures. Paired with global warming, El Nino made 2015
the hottest year on record. And you can see a similar spike back in 1998,
during a record-breaking El Nino. 23,000 people died. $35 billion of damage for the last strong
El Nino in 1997-98. So, it’s much bigger than any individual
hurricane or storm, and it’s something that really can have these huge impacts.

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