It was originally thought that an El Ni��o could only occur in the Pacific Ocean basin, although some scholars are now suggesting that smaller, mini El Ni��os could also take place in the area around the Indian Ocean. The term El Ni��o, also referred to as Southern Oscillation, was originally only used to refer to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures off the west coast of South America.Continue Reading
However, the term El Ni��o has since been adapted to refer to unusual changes in sea surface temperature anywhere throughout the Pacific Ocean. These abnormalities in the temperature of the sea surface can cause many different temporary effects on the world's weather and climate.
The term El Ni��o means the boy child in Spanish, and it was first used by fisherman in South America to refer to unusually warm water off the coast. As these changes often occurred around Christmas, the fisherman called them El Ni��o, which essentially refers to the baby Jesus.
El Ni��os occur due to the change in surface pressure between the eastern and western halves of the Pacific Ocean, which in turn cause the changes in the surface water temperature. El Ni��os occur at somewhat regular intervals, with a new one happening about every two to seven years.
Typically, an El Ni��o event leads to extreme precipitation on the western side of the Pacific, which often causes flooding and other problems on the west coasts of North and South America. However, this also tends to lead to extreme drought on the other side of the Pacific.Learn more about Weather & Tides