Holiday Epidemics: The El Niño Warning


At least every seven years or so, and predictable many months in advance, our planet pushes the reset button on our oceans and atmosphere. The big event begins in the South China Sea and quickly spreads to encircle our planet. Few living things are spared its influence.

During the normal times between these events, westerly trade winds steadily push the surface of the Pacific Ocean all the way across to Southeast Asia. There, the water warms under the equatorial sun and evaporates to create the rain which makes the region the lush tropical part of the world we all know about. On the Americas side of the Pacific, cold, nutrient-rich water from the two poles and from deep in the ocean rises up to fill the gap, feeding an abundant coastal marine life, drying the air, and keeping surfers in their wet suits. When this circulation comes to a halt and the massive warm wave of water sloshes back across the pacific, the world, economies, and even our health changes dramatically for a year or two.

For many decades, Peruvian fisherman noticed that every-so-often their catches dropped dramatically near Christmas time. They named the event for the baby Jesus. We now know that El Niño or what scientists call an El Niño South Oscillation Event not only affects the seas and weather of the Pacific, but also manifests itself dramatically around the world with droughts and fires, storms and floods, famine and disease. While we might not be able to control the weather, we can do a lot to reduce adverse consequences. Thanks to NOAA and NASA and modern weather forecasting capabilities, the world now has actionable information many months in advance.

This year’s El Niño is looking to be <a target="_blank" href="" —> Read More