El Niño Strikes Back

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com.

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com.

Christian Segers, Staff Writer

El Niño, the cyclical heating of the earth’s surface water that affects global weather patterns, will return in full force with the upcoming winter season.

From 1997 to 1998, El Niño created over $35 billion in property damage and took the lives of more than 23,000 people around the world. Climate experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict that the 2015 El Niño will rival its 97’-98’ predecessor in terms of both material damage and humanity lost.

Adebobola Nathaniel, who teaches a variety of earth science classes at North Greenville University, suggests that El Niño 2015 will rival the deadly 1997 occurrence.

“Damage caused by flooding and storms could run into billions of dollars, not to mention loss of lives,” said Nathaniel.

To truly grasp the potential catastrophe that El Niño presents, it is imperative that people understand the science behind what makes El Niño so dangerous. As an authority on earth science, Nathaniel was asked to provide a brief description of this global phenomenon.

“El Niño is the warming of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. This is usually caused by the weakening of the trade winds blowing from east to the west,” he said.

Due to El Niño, wind speed will decrease, causing the temperature of surface water to rise four degrees, particularly along the equator.

Although four degrees may appear to be a small variation, when looking at the environmental implications, the situation is staggering. An over heated aquatic ecosystem can cause snowing in California, while at the same time can create tidal waves in the east.

Origins of El Niño date back to the early 1800s, when Peruvian fishermen noticed that certain currents were becoming hotter in the winter months. In light of the holiday season and particularly, the celebration of the virgin birth, the fishermen named the current El Niño, which translates to mean little boy or Christ child.

Nathaniel stated that raising awareness about El Niño 2015 is of the utmost importance.

“Although it’s difficult to predict what form of damage will exist, if people are properly educated of what El Nino is, necessary precautions could be taken to prevent loss of lives and reduce property damage,” he said.

In days before the industrial age, El Niño was not considered a great threat to the climate. However, the technological advancements of the 20th century, coupled with the heating of global surface water, can create unimaginable storms and havoc around the world.