By: Shaira Cipriano

The El Niño cphenomenon has received some extensive attention for the past six months due to its enormous impact in many aspects of our lives. Our daily routines have shifted in many ways in order to cope up with such disturbing occurrence.

The most of the distressing news we have heard recently are forest fire in Mt. Apo, farmers in Cotabato asking for rice from the local government and the huge incurrence of losses in agricultural industry are all linked to the phenomenon called El Niño.

What is El Niño anyway? How come it’s all over the news? How much do we know about it?

It has been discovered recently that El Niño has been existing since 1500’s. In fact, South American fishermen who coined the term “El Niño” which means “The Boy Child” in Spanish, originated during the celebration of the Christ Chid in December and January where fish in the sea virtually disappear in that time of the year.

It was only on the 19th century when more explanations of the phenomenon was released. El Niño is a temperature anomaly, an abnormal weather pattern that temporary changes the climate around the equator particularly in the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Ocean obtains more sunlight than any other areas of Earth. Sunlight is stored in the ocean in a form of heat and would expectedly reach its peak on the last quarter of each year. It then starts normalizing until the second quarter.

The west side of the ocean’s surface is the warmest as a high pressure system develops while the east side is the coldest, thus giving a low pressure system. As the wind blows from east to west, warm surfaced waters are dragged, accumulating large deep pools.

The difference in pressure system is known as Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) thus explains its official name El Niño – SOI. The changes in atmospheric pressure and wind velocity now results to either droughts or heavy rainfall.

Over the past five decades, there had been ten major El Niños reported and this year’s occurrence is one of the highest ever recorded. Its average irregular interval runs from two to seven years. However, experts would say that the said intervals may be no longer be relevant as evidenced by this year’s occurrence which is in fact record-breaking as they call it “Super El Niño”.

The consequences brought by El Niño are also far reaching. The alteration of weather patterns causes changes in temperatures which eventually leads to forest fires, drought, flooding and heavy rainfalls. In terms of economic consequences, prices of agricultural products fluctuate in order to recover the losses due to low harvests or worst, crop failures.

Despite of many technological advances of this generation, El Niño has continues to affect the lives of many as no one could ever stop this complex natural phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that is experienced by all, regardless of age, gender, social status, and race.

It is a climatological occurence that cannot be cured as if it was some bacteria in the human body. However, it does not mean that there is no available solution to reduce its effects. As one of the warmest ever recorded, this year’s El Niño serves as a warning that human-induced climate change is happening before our eyes and thus, it will be relentless and unmerciful if left unchecked.

The next generation is of no exemption also. Considering the deadly environmental impacts of our use of fossil fuels and other environmentally degrading actions, it is obvious that most of us are guilty it. Doing more would only increase the severity of future El Niños.

Its frequency will surely increase and soon, the consequences our actions will give to a burden so heavy that even not all of us could carry it.

Photo courtesy of Australian Broadcast Channel