El Niño

Popular Terms
Periodic but anomalous warming of the surface waters of eastern equatorial Pacific ocean (off South American coast), which occurs irregularly every 2 to 7 years and disrupts weather patterns around the world. The warming usually lasts 1 to 2 years, whereas in normal (non-El Niño) years it lasts only a few weeks or a month. El Niño typically causes colder, wetter winters in the US, heavy rainfall in the coastal regions of Peru and Chile, drier and hotter summers in rest of the South America and the Europe, brush fires and sharply reduced rainfall in Australia, and drought in equatorial Africa. Since it tends to appear around Christmas, it was named El Niño (Spanish for a little boy) by the fishermen, the traditional reference to the infant Christ.
See also El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and La Niña.


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