Mod 8 Earth Science: El Niño Essay Sample

Mod 8 Earth Science: El Niño

The weather anomalies are among the most influential factors that can change global climate. All around the world the weather anomalies like shift of winds, storm tracks and jet streams affect the climate, nature and economic well-being of people. Such unusual conditions are the result of El Niño, a warm current in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean that irregularly appears every three to seven years. The changes in weather patterns caused by El Niño affect fishing and agriculture industries and have a significant effect on the product prices all over the world. The local economic impact results in global economic instability, the increase of prices and social food-related issues. Moreover, the Southern Oscillation is linked with other climatic oscillations and thus, El Niño has influence not only on the Pacific region but the entire world. The humanity should find ways to cope with the global weather and climate change as far as El Niño and other anomalies destroy the nature and environment. Although El Niño is a natural anomaly affecting both weather and climate, it is necessary to study its international and local influence, since the global economics significantly depends on it.


El Niño is evidently one of the most dangerous weather anomalies characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Such oscillation of the ocean and atmosphere temperature systems affects the climate and causes changes all around the world. The term of the anomaly in Spanish means “the Christ Child” as far as the warm ocean current appears at the time of Christmas celebration. Originally, the fishermen from the coasts of Peru and Ecuador used the name to define the warm waters that came from the ocean. Thus, during many centuries they observed that in December the warm current replaced normally cool water.

In an El Niño year the surface waters of the “eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean” become warmer than normal (Thompson, 2014). As a rule, the increase of temperature is slight and the narrow current washes the coasts of Peru and Ecuador only for a few months. However, every few years it increases so immensely that the surface of the warm water broadens and its temperature rises above normal. Therefore, El Niño forms the ocean-atmosphere system of the tropical Pacific region and impacts primarily the western coast of the South America.

Although people were aware of the occurrence of high sea surface temperatures periods, the scientists began to recognize the connections between them and abnormal weather conditions in the world only in 1960. According to the observations, El Niño takes place irregularly every 2-7 years and on average lasts 12-18 months (Babkina, 2003). Nowadays, people use the term to define either the years of unusual warmth or excessive ocean warming. The scientists measure it by means of a special system developed by the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

Comparison to Normal Weather Conditions

Under the normal weather conditions, winds blow warm surface waters of the Pacific Ocean from the South America to Indonesia. As far as the surface of the ocean is exposed to the sun, such waters store heat in the upper water layer. At the same time, the cold waters from the bottom of the ocean move up towards the surface of the coast of the South America. These waters are full of nutrients for the fish and make the area the most abundant for the fishing industry. Due to such trade winds the western Pacific waters are higher, deeper and warmer than the eastern ones that are lower, shallower and cooler. Moreover, the atmosphere depends on the ocean surface circulation. Hence, in the west of the Pacific Ocean the air is warmer due to the warm waters and the rains are more typical as compared to the eastern cost. Therefore, normal circulation of waters defines the weather and climate conditions in these regions.

In contrast, under El Niño condition, the trade winds become weaker and allow the warm water move toward the South America. Consequently, it increases the sea level and water temperature near the eastern Pacific coast. The fish dies or migrates from the area, since the marine conditions change. Accordingly, the weather changes as well, followed by heavy rains and intense storms in one region and severe droughts in other. The scientists still do not know exactly the reasons and ways of El Niño formation (Porteous, 2000). Unfortunately, all El Niño streams are different and have various impacts on the atmosphere and climate. Therefore, it is crucial to understand El Niño events and be able to predict it in order to be ready to the possible weather changes.

Consequences of the Anomaly

Since El Niño causes the unusual elevation of water temperature, its consequences are dramatic. The imprint of the anomaly concerns not only local weather and sea life but the climate all over the world. The quantity of weather-related disasters that El Niño caused worldwide is innumerable. Its primary reason is in the shift of the tropical rainfall that affects the wind patterns globally. And as far as everything in the nature is interconnected, small changes produce big consequences. The change of winds, currents, either poor or heavy rains, the change of temperature of water and air are the anomalies that do not adhere to the traditional weather patterns. Thus, scientists believe that many of the worst natural cataclysms are the results of El Niño effect. Hence, it may have contributed to droughts and floods in South America, Australia and Africa. The consequences of El Niño include the storms and increase of rainfalls in the areas between the south of the United States and Peru (Sarachik and Cane, 2010).

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At the periods of El Niño, the fishing industry experiences a disaster, since the schools of fish inhabiting the coastal waters migrate due to the warmth. And, as a result, the quantity of fish that remains cannot satisfy the needs of local people, birds and sea mammals that need it to survive. However, there are positive consequences, as well. The increase of precipitations and warm weather in some areas allows farmers to get rich harvests and supplies people with an abundance of fruit and vegetables. And the most disastrous consequence is in its connection with the global warming and climate change in the world. Moreover, the anthropological climate change that occurs in the world can contribute to the intensity and frequency of El Niño and its consequences. Therefore, it can affect not only the nature but damage people and animals, destroying the natural habitat and increasing the number of diseases. Hence, together with human activities changing the composition of the atmosphere the weather anomalies like El Niño can lead to catastrophe.

Global Economics

The impact of El Niño on the global and local economies is becoming stronger and the countries should be prepared to the anomalous weather changes. As the global economics becomes vulnerable due to the effects of El Niño, it is crucial to forecast it and apply all possible means and measures to prevent the damages. According to Brunner (2002), the cycle of El Niño Southern Oscillation impacts about 10-20 percent of variation in the inflation and growth of the major global economies. However, Laosuthi and Selover (2007) argue that El Niño mainly affects the economies of Australia, South Africa and India, while its effect on growth of GDP or inflation in other countries is not statistically significant.

The economic consequences of El Niño differ in every country due to the fact that its effects vary. Floods, droughts, hurricanes and fires damage whole ecosystems and pose a significant risk to the local economies. Thus, El Niño does not have direct influence on every country, its impact to the global economics is undeniable. The spillovers among the trading partners define the development of economic links and under such conditions the impact of El Niño becomes global. Among its consequences are the increase of oil and non-fuel commodity prices and inflationary pressures. Also, the unfavorable weather conditions caused by El Niño can become the reason of significant constraints in the supply of agricultural production. Hence, it defines the food prices and can lead to economic and social instability in the poor countries dependent on the food supply.

International Relations

The impact of El Niño on the global economics has positive, as well as negative implications for the international relations. While countries that experience the weather changes directly can suffer from damages or inconveniences, the others indirectly benefit from such changes. For instance, it increases their commodity prices and allows developing their economies in the periods of El Niño, caused by recessions in the regions depending on it.

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El Niño and La Nina can be veritable sources of information for prediction of weather and climate. However, the currents are not studied completely, the scientists from different countries combine their efforts in order to solve current issue. Current international initiatives related to El Niño and global warming aim at exchanging knowledge and expertise and develop efficient strategies of countering and coordinating the impact of such weather anomaly. In order to find out more about El Niño and its effect on the global climate and weather the governments increased “the number of international research programs” (Philander, 2004). According to them, much attention must be devoted to the study of oceans and atmosphere as the main constituents of the El Niño anomaly.

Local Economic Influences

Local economics of the tropical countries directly depend on weather conditions that affect fishing and agriculture industries and food production. Due to the large impact of such weather shock, it is necessary for the local economies to conduct proper planning and decrease the possibility of negative economic consequences. Moreover, the prediction of El Niño would allow receiving economic benefits for the local economies. The El Niño years are unfavorable for traditional industries but may bring huge yields if the crops were chosen appropriately to the weather conditions caused by the anomaly.

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Under the influence of El Niño the waters rich for nutrients from the deeper levels do not flow to the coastal waters of Peru. Since it is one of five main fishing areas in the world, the industry experiences significant decline and, consequently, the country has economic downturn. The reduction of fish decreases the production of the fishmeal and, consequently, its export to the other countries. Such kind of production is necessary for feeding the livestock and poultry in other countries. Hence, the lack of the fishmeal production leads to the use of more expensive feed sources. As a result, the global prices for the livestock and poultry grow.

Influence of Other Events on Weather and Climate

All the events on the Earth are tightly connected with each other and even the smallest change can lead to the huge consequences. Therefore, the changes El Niño brings, cause the chain of events that result in weather changes all around the globe. Besides, the volcanoes, meteorite impacts, ice cap size fluctuations and nuclear explosions might affect them, as well.

The smoke from volcanoes pollutes the atmosphere and causes dangerous weather changes. Hence, it affects the planet’s cloud cover and enhances the warming greenhouse effect. In local dimension volcano eruptions decrease the air quality and provoke heavy rains. And as for the world-wide implications, the volcanoes can affect wind circulation, occurrence of storms and lead to unseasonable weather. Moreover, the volcanic activity might be one of the reasons of warming the surface waters in the Eastern Pacific region and lead to the appearance of El Niño.

Besides the volcano eruptions, the meteorite impacts can produce serious effect on weather. When meteors strike the atmosphere they vaporize and produce cosmic dust. Depending on the proximity to equator the meteorite impacts lead to different consequences but still they produce clouds and smoke. However, its amount is small as compared to the volcano eruptions, while the large meteorite impact can bring new substances to the atmosphere of the Earth and provoke untypical chemical reactions (Hutson, 2005).

One more natural event that is closely interlinked with the weather is ice cap size fluctuations. The scientists point that the primary reasons for expansion and contraction of glaciers are temperature and precipitations. Thus, due to the increase of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere many glaziers tend to disappear. As the climate warming increases, the melted water from the ice sheets may affect global sea level and aquatic resources all over the world.

The most dangerous of possible consequences for the weather and climate are always caused by humans. Therefore, the nuclear explosions lead to the dispersion of a large amount of radionuclides and fine dust in the atmosphere and later disposition on the surface of the planet. The dangerous precipitations, change of wind patterns and air pollutants affect nature and climate. To sum up, there are common features among all the aforementioned events. Such phenomena as the amounts of the released energy, dust and clouds increase the effect on the weather and climate and their influence may become extremely negative.

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El Niño as warm phase of climate oscillation has a great impact on global climate. The global climate hazard of El Niño approached a critical juncture as far as it directly changes weather and climate patterns in the entire world. The development of El Niño causes droughts in the western Pacific region, heavy rains in the eastern Pacific and storms in the central part of the region. The consequences of El Niño reach areas far beyond the region of its occurrence and affect the global climate system. Unseasonable weather in many parts of the world resulted from El Niño causes the temperature and precipitation anomalies, floods and droughts. The notable effects of El Niño on the environment lead to the local and international economic losses. The most strongly El Niño impacts tropical countries, the local economies of which depend directly on climate. Thus, it is necessary for such countries to be aware and prepared to the impacts of El Niño. Due to the international economic links, the problem spreads affecting the economies of other countries. And thus, it is difficult to predict them, as well as their consequences. Due to the fact that forecasting of such weather anomaly is a complicated process, it is necessary to track it and develop further scientific predictions. The problem also deepens due to the fact that except El Niño such weather anomalies as the volcanoes, meteorite impacts, ice cap size fluctuations and nuclear explosions affect the climate change, as well.

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