Clearing Away the Fog from El Nino

Article excerpt

As the weather begins to change, with the cold winds approaching, one of the questions frequently heard is "How will El Nino affect this winter's weather?" El Nino, which in Spanish means the male child, is a weather occurrence that happens, usually without drastic effect, when trade winds flow across the midsouthern Pacific Ocean.

The result of these winds is that the surface temperature of the seas change. Like a bad-tempered child, this year's El Nino is causing the water temperature in areas of South America to be too warm.

Here's a site that explains how this affects not only the sea, but worldwide weather conditions.



Creator: WW2010 is the Web site of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The main site address ( description explains, "This site provides a framework for integrating current and archived weather data with multimedia instruction resources." For real weather aficionados, WW2010 offers a hybrid multimedia educational CD-ROM that is available by e-mail ( for more information. The CD-ROM provides hundreds of pages of multimedia weather information, educational projects and activities. A limited number of CD-ROMs are available to educators and school districts.

CREATOR QUOTABLE: "The site was created to help educators and students understand the basic topics of atmospheric sciences," says David Wojtowicz, the Web master and staff member at the university. "In addition to general weather science, from the site the user will also receive a basic introduction to El Nino and its impact not only on the environment, but how it will economically influence areas that are affected by the occurrence."

WORD FROM THE WEBWISE: One of the most interesting aspects of the site, which can be understood by children and adults, is the definition of El Nino, which explains that this weather phenomenon occurs annually, in late December, along the coast of Ecuador and Peru.

Major El Nino occurrences that create significant worldwide atmospheric consequences, such as what we are experiencing, happen every three to seven years.

El Nino, users will learn, is a result of weakened trade winds that allow warmer water from the western Pacific regions of Indonesia to flow toward Peru.

As this warmer water flows eastward, weather effects include increased rain activity in otherwise dry environments and droughts in normally wet environments, such as Indonesia and Australia. Problems resulting from these changes include an influx of mosquitoes and disease to desert areas that are flooded.

There also is the destruction of property from flooding and land erosion in desert soils that cannot accommodate tremendous influxes of water. Another effect is the greater number of hurricanes, and other destructive wind and rainstorms, that batter coastline towns. …