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  • Writer's pictureRay Benavidez

El Niño

I remember the first time I heard about the tropical phenomenon known as El Niño, I freaked out. Mainly because my cousin exaggerated what truly happens during the bizarre weather. But how does El Niño truly start, and how does it affect the world?

Before an El Niño event happens, trade winds (thin, fast-flowing air currents) push warm water from the South American Pacific East to Indonesia and the Australian area. However, sometimes these winds aren’t strong enough to push this warm water and causes the warm water to move very little. This means the colder water underneath shifts East instead of the warmer water. This unusual event usually happens during the winter time in North America. During this period, not only is North America a little bit more wet than usual, but beaches on the the Northern West Coast will experience increasing water levels, even flooding in some areas. During El Niño, areas along the jet stream will experience storms and wetter weather than usual, and in areas that aren’t in the path while experiencing drier conditions and even droughts in some rare occasions.

But as Issac Newton once said “Every action has an equal but opposite reaction”. I say this because sometimes there are episodes similar to El Niño but instead of the more Southern areas experiencing wetter weather and the North experiencing drier weather, it’s the exact opposite. These events are often referred to as La Niña events and happen when cold water cannot be pushed East during trade winds, causing the jet streams to stay in high positions.

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