Chyulu Hills, Kenya. (© Charlie Shoemaker)
After one of the hottest years on record worldwide, it seems as if the next few months will offer no respite. According to the Climate Prediction Center, there is a 90 percent chance that there will be an El Niño this season. What does that have to do with weather and climate change? Human Nature is here with answers.
- What is El Niño?
The definition of “El Niño” — “little boy” or “Christ child” in Spanish, as it typically occurs in December around Christmas — is a natural weather event that causes warmer-than-usual waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and cooler-than-usual waters in the western tropical Pacific. These changes drive weather patterns that have global consequences. El Niño means below-average temperatures and more rain for the southern U.S., but hot, dry conditions for Australia, Indonesia, southeastern Africa and northern Brazil. The above-average ocean temperatures mean that fish migrate further north in search of cooler waters, and their predators follow suit. These migrations affect not only the marine food chain, but also humans that depend on those fish populations for nutrition and income. El Niño also causes a shift in precipitation, which means some areas may get more rain than usual while others get less, which affects agriculture.