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This nOde last updated April 11th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
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El Niño (nên´yo)
A warming of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America that occurs every 4 to 12 years when upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water does not occur. It causes plankton and fish to die and affects weather over much of the Pacific Ocean.
[American Spanish, from Spanish, the Christ child (from the association between the onset of the warming and Christmastide) : el, the (from Latin ille) + niño, child (from Old Spanish ninno, from Vulgar Latin *ninnus).]
VOLCANOS AND EL NINOS
An El Nino commences when a giant high pressure system centered near Easter Island weakens slightly and causes a shift in the circulation of Pacific Ocean currents. Weather patterns from North America to Australia lurch ponderously in sympathy. El Ninos occur every 4-7 years, suggesting some periodic phenomenon is waving a geophysical baton.
The real cause of El Ninos is still obscure. However, the recent discovery of over 1,000 previously unmapped submarine volcanos rising from the seafloor in the eastern Pacific may lead to El Nino's source. The synchronous eruption of, say, 100 of these volcanos might warm the ocean around Easter Island a tad---just enough to warm the atmosphere above a bit---resulting in a shift of the high pressure area.
The area of intense
volcanic activity covers 55,000 square miles of sea floor where the Pacific
plates are separating. In addition to the active volcanos, many plumes of 800°F
water gush from the sea floor in this area. The volcano-El Nino link is, therefore,
not so far-fetched.
(Nash, Nathaniel C.; "Volcano Group in Pacific May Cause El Nino," Pittsburgh Post_Gazette, February 14, 1993. Cr. E. Fegert)
Comment. If submarine volcanos do cause the El Ninos, and the El Ninos are periodic, the submarine volcanism would have to be periodic, too. This implies an unrecognized rhythm in the earth's internal fires.