El Niño | ‘A periodic sloshing of warm water from west to east across the Pacific (‘Global climate, Tough little girl’, The Economist, Jan 8 2011).

The term | The term El Niño meaning “the boy” (Jesus) was coined by Peruvian fishermen more than a century ago, because the phenomenon [warming the water off Peru] normally becomes fully apparent around Christmas,’ (The Economist, 28 June 2014).

How it works | ‘El Niño (together with its cooling sibling, La Niña) is a complex, naturally occurring weather phenomenon. Every two to seven years much of the warm water that collects in the western Pacific sloshes back eastward to the seaboard of South America. That brings torrential rain and flooding to Ecuador, Peru’s desert coast and western Bolivia, and drought to the Andean highlands of Peru and Bolivia. Scientists now know that El Niño disrupts normal climate patterns across much of the world. It brings drought and forest fires to northern Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia. It can lessen the monsoon and Caribbean hurricanes, cause heavy rains in California and southern Brazil, and drought in other parts of the United States and northern Brazil. Research by Japanese scientists found that, in the year that it appears, El Niño prompts a fall of 2.3% in average world yields of maize, of 1.4% in wheat and of 0.4% in rice. A big one is due. Severe El Niños normally occur every 15 to 20 years; the last one was in 1997-98,’ (The Economist, 28 June 2014).

Effects | El Niño ‘is now understood to have far wider effects, leading to characteristic patterns of temperature, rainfall, and drought around much of the world. El Niño’s female counterpart, La Niña, a cooler sloshing from east to west – is less well known, and less frequent…[In] some [global climate change] models the sloshings of the Pacific will get stronger in a warmer world, others say that they will weaken; the spatial pattern of the effects may change, too,’ (The Economist, 8 Jan 2011).


The Economist,. Bello: That damned child–The imminence of another El Niño is a test of Andean progress, 28th June 2014, p.44).

The Economist,. Global climate, Tough little girl, The Economist, 8 Jan 2011, p.55.