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El Nino and La Nina Systems

In 1997, it brought more energy with it than a million Hiroshima bombs, and it's resurfaced again in 2007. El Nino is a weather cycle that happens every few years but the El Nino of '97-'98 was one of the most devastating. It killed nearly 2,100 people worldwide and left $33 million US in property damages in its wake. As if that wasn't bad enough, El Nino was followed by one of the worst La Nina cycles in recent history - the very next year. Curious about how a weather system can wreak so much havoc? Read on to find out!

El Nino and La Nina - Equitorial Weather Patterns

El Nino is a weather pattern that passes through the Equatorial Pacific Ocean every couple of years (it tends to appear every three to eight years). El Nino is associated with warmer ocean currents but that's not all that happens when this system passes through. Air pressure changes during El Nino causing higher temperatures and, when that is combined with warmer ocean currents, evaporation takes place at a greater speed. All these elements combined lead to drastic changes in normal weather patterns and can cause abnormal amounts of rain. These rainstorms take place within the Equatorial Pacific Ocean - causing massive flooding for the countries in that area, including the United States, Peru and other parts of South and Central America. While the Eastern Pacific area is being pummeled by extra rain, areas like Australia, Indonesia and India deal with severe drought. This is because much of the moisture that is normally dispersed around the world is evaporating too quickly and staying within the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

El Nino and La Nina - Role Reversal

Just like everything else in the world, El Nino has an opposite too. La Nina is a weather system that hits the Pacific Ocean between December and March. La Nina is as unpredictable as El Nino but usually shows up every three to eight years, following an El Nino system. While there are mild winters and flooding associated with El Nino, the complete opposite is true when La Nina arrives; La Nina brings harsh winters with drought and abnormally cold temperatures.

El Nino and La Nina - The History

There was a time when these two weather patterns were responsible for thousands of deaths. During the El Nino cycle in 1789, 600,000 people died in one region of India due to severe drought. Thanks to modern day science, we are now able to predict when we will see these weather systems pass through. This doesn't mean we can necessarily lessen the physical damage they cause, but early warnnings may help to save lives in the future. The El Nino system making its way through the Pacific Ocean in 2007 is expected to bring some of the hottest temperatures on record along with it.

El Nino and La Nina - Fun Facts

  • Both El Nino and La Nina mean, The Child, in Spanish (one is the male version and one is the female version). El Nino usually refers to the baby Jesus because the weather patterns often begin to surface around Christmas time.
  • El Nino is also known as ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation). Southern Oscillation is a term used to describe the way air pressure changes during an El Nino system.
  • The longest lasting El Nino system lasted for four years. They usually only last about 12 to 18 months.
  • Was there something we left out about El Nino or La Nina that you were dying to find out?
  • Related Stories:

  • Weather - What Are Clouds?
  • Weather - Extreme Climates 2: Wettest Place
  • Weather - Extreme Climates 1: Driest Place
  • More Weather Facts!
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