In a world where slight but significant changes in angles, distance or direction shift are constantly happening, regional climate is quite steadfast in comparison. However, El Niño and La Niña are both climate phenomenon that are not easy to predict, unlike phenomena like Hadley cells that constantly behave the way they do. The last El Niño was in 2009-2010 and forecasts say that the winter of 2014-2015 may experience El Niño, but not a particularly strong one (Roz, 2014). So should we be happy about this news? Coming from a country were summer monsoons could kill, I used to think that any form of strong rain was evil. But some other places suggest otherwise.
El Niño happens when there’s an unusual reversal of the direction of warm surface water in the Pacific ocean. This reversal happens when the trade winds, which normally move from east to west, reverse direction or simply weaken. When trade winds aren’t blowing westward, the warm surface water that moves from the western South American coast towards Australia instead builds up at the coast of Peru or Ecuador, creating areas of higher sea level, which also indicate warmer water (since water expands, like air). Warmer water in that area is indicative of El Niño.
Figure 1 shows the sea temperatures that are indicative of an El Niño and La Niña. Figure 2 is a recent Jason-2 satellite shot to compare with the El Niño example in Figure 1, and as one can see, Figure 2 doesn’t look too similar with Figure 1. Earlier this year, forecasts were wary that the El Niño of 2014 would be the devastating 1997 El Niño, but nowadays, it looks like an El Niño would be either wimpy or non-existent.
I used to wonder, “Aren’t these intermittent surprises a bad thing? You’d think that these climate curveballs would drive people nuts!” In 2004, El Niño was particularly harsh with Florida by sending four hurricanes at it. El Niño flooded Peru and Ecuador and in the past, and California dreaded El Niño because it also brought them floods and mudslides. But now that California is in the middle of an intense drought, they are begging Mother Nature to create a strong El Niño. Texas has been in the middle of a drought since October 2010 and like California, is hoping for El Niño to give them rain (Blaney, 2014). Now that I looked into the current conditions of certain places, I’m doing what I never thought I would do: I am hoping for a hurricane (for California and Texas at least). The possible El Niño of 2014 has reinforced the idea that anomalies aren’t completely bad, and that’s something I think that people should keep in the back of their minds when regarding anything unexpected whether its data, traditions or even life. A curse to one is another’s blessing.
“Last Chance for El Nino Drought Relief? New Kelvin Waves Cross Pacific – NBC News.” NBC News. 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Blaney, Betsy. “El Nino Forecast to Help Texas out of Drought.” Houston Chronicle. 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Pidcock, Roz. “Climate Scientists Dub This Year’s El Niño “a Real Enigma”.” Web log post. The Carbon Brief. 4 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Oct. 2014. <http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/08/climate-scientists-dub-this-year%E2%80%99s-el-nino-a-real-enigma/>.
Rogers, Paul. “California Drought: El Niño Chances Increase, but Scientists Say It May Be a Weak One.” San Jose Mercury News. 5 June 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_25906906/california-drought-el-ni-241-o-chances-increase>.