What is the El Nino Effect

El Niño

A "Christ Child" brings bad luck

Around every four years around Christmas time, the sea off the west coast of South America warms up and gives fishermen there a life-threatening lull when fishing. Due to the unusually high temperatures, large parts of the fish population die or leave the sea. In addition, there is huge rainfall, which causes floods and hurricanes.

The fishermen call this phenomenon "El Niño", which means "the Christ Child", according to the Christian season. A Christ child who brings disaster. Because usually an El Niño year is associated with many disasters for the locals.

What is El Niño?

Between a high pressure area off the west coast of South America and a low pressure area off the east coast of Australia, winds, the so-called trade winds, circulate in certain directions. Depending on the strength of the respective pressure equalization, different wind speeds arise.

At the same time, cold and warm ocean currents circle. The cold ocean current from the south is called the Humboldt Current. It ensures a balanced climate in the sea.

In an El Niño year the high will collapse. This always happens in southern summer, the hottest season, and in the southern hemisphere it is always around Christmas time. As a result of the collapse, the winds get out of control and sometimes blow in opposite directions at considerable speeds.

This also changes the ocean currents. The Humboldt Current is diverted and the sea warms up more and more. Plankton and other marine animals perish.

In addition to the economic problems already mentioned, the violent storms usually bring with them extensive rainfall due to the chaotic weather conditions. Flood disasters and landslides occur again and again. The consequences are death, destruction and disease.

Can El Niño also perform with us?

The changes in wind circulation in the Pacific region affect the trade winds around the globe. On the east coast of Africa, for example, droughts occur because the trade winds fail here and do not bring moist air from the ocean to the land.

There are also dry periods in Australia and Indonesia and thus an increased risk of forest fires. El Niño is also said to have an impact on Europe: for example, some scientists attribute the icy winter of 2009/2010 to the phenomenon.

Where does El Niño come from?

So far, research here is still in its infancy. How the phenomenon works has largely been discovered. But the causes still lie in the realm of speculation. Some researchers blame the solar flares, discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, for such phenomena.

Every eleven years or so these sunspots change, enormous discharges on the sun's surface. Every four years, i.e. in the El Niño rhythm, the intensity of these eruptions changes. The energy emitted as a result is said to have an impact on our climate.

The connection between El Niño and global warming is also scientifically controversial. It is true that climate researchers observed an intensification of the phenomenon, especially up to 1997. After that, this development normalized again.

Thus, natural fluctuations that have been observed again and again can also be responsible for this. However, many weather researchers still suspect that there is a connection and that El Niño will occur more frequently in the future due to the rise in earth temperatures.