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El Niño & La Niña

Wet or Dry?

El Niño & La Niña

El Niño and La Niña are the children of the Tropics. El Niño was originally recognized by fisherman off the coast of South America as the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific ocean, occurring near the beginning of the year.

El Niño means The Little Boy or Christ child in Spanish. This name was used for the tendency of the phenomenon to arrive around Christmas. La Niña means The Little Girl. La Niña is sometimes called El Viejo, anti-El Niño, or simply "a cold event" or "a cold episode".

Both effects El Niño and La Niña are very important for the climate and the weather in the Philippines. Very simplified one can say:


El Niño brings dry weather and even droughts

La Niña stands for rainy weather and floods

The Niño / Niña Meter aside informs at a glance and is updated automatically by NOAA.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasi-periodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years.

It is characterized by variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean warming or cooling known as Niño and Niña respectively and air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific, the Southern Oscillation.

Current ENSO trend

La Niña <--- | --->  El Niño

Absolute Water Temperature

This map shows the development of the Pacific Ocean's surface water temperatures in the last 12 weeks. The Philippines can be found on the extreme left side of the map. In the center are the islands of Hawaii and on the right side are parts of the USA, Mexico, Central America and Peru.

The absolute surface temperatures are in indicator for typhoon/hurricane probability. An ocean temperature of 26.5°C (79.7°F]) spanning through a depth of at least 50 meters (160 ft) is considered the minimum to maintain the special mesocyclone that is the tropical cyclone.

These warm waters are needed to maintain the warm core that fuels tropical systems. A minimum distance of 500 km (300 miles) from the equator is normally needed for tropical cyclogenesis.

Anomalies of Water Temperature

Much more important for the El Niño / La Niña effects are the temperature differences of the surface waters around the equator.

A difference of +/- 0.5°C (white color) is considered to be normal.

A derivation to yellow and red along the equator means warmer equatorial waters = El Niño.

A bluish color along the equator means colder equatorial waters = La Niña

El Niño / La Niña in the Philippines

El Niño means dry weather to extremely dry weather in the Philippines. Water supply can get difficult and even electricity production can get dramatically low. Crops can die before harvest time.

The El Niño effect touches all the Philippine islands. The region around Manila (NCR) especially suffers from water shortage. Mindanao looses big amounts of crops and is subject to dramatic electricity shortage. In some regions power cut can last 10 hours and more per day. Only regions with high mountains such as Negros, Panay and Camiguin still get water from the condensation of the upstreaming humid air.

The La Niña effect means wet weather with lots of rain. There are many landslides, flooded roads and rivers going wild. Harvests of crops can be abundant but crop can also be destroyed by the too much water.

The eastern shores and islands facing the Pacific ocean are most touched by the La Niña effect. The humid air is brought to the Philippines by the steady stream of the "Easterlies".

La Niña together with tropical depressions or even typhoons can be extremely dangerous because of the big amounts of rainfall.

Unfortunately the statistical 5 years rhythm shows many exceptions. These exceptions make it extremely difficult to get prepared.

2014 should have been an El Niño year. But the first 8 months showed a slight La Niña trend. By September a neutral situation installed.

Some provincial governments have started to install water regulation facilities such as big underground water tanks to face El Niño or drainage systems to get quickly rid of the La Niña floods.

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