Dynamic Planet

The Path to El Niño
Play the El Niño Game

Amy Clement Hi, there! I’m Amy Clement. I’m an oceanographer at Columbia University in New York City. I study how the ocean affects the climate around the world. Climate is the typical weather pattern for a certain area of the world. Near the Equator, for example, the climate is very hot all year. Near the North Pole, the climate is always bitter cold.

As you probably know, the change of seasons - winter, spring, summer, and fall - affects climate. Another thing that can change the climate is El Niņo (“el-NEEN-yo”). El Niño is difficult to study because so many different factors influence climate.

What is El Niño?
It’s a major change in climate that happens every 2 to 7 years in the Pacific Ocean near the Equator. Normally, the climates of the western and eastern Pacific Ocean are very different. During an El Niño year, the patterns almost reverse. (see Pacific Ocean Chart)

How did it get its name?
Years ago, fishermen from Peru noticed that the Pacific Ocean often became warmer around Christmas. So they nicknamed this change “El Niño”, which is Spanish for “Christ child.”

check out the Pacific Ocean predicting El Niño Play the El Niño Game