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What is El-Niņo?
1997 - 1998
What Did El Niņo 1997 - 1998 Bring to Canada?
How Did El Niņo 1997 - 1998 Compare with Previous El Niņos?
What are El Niņos Global Impacts?
Quick Facts

La Nina


El Niņos alter weather patterns around the world, causing abnormally high rainfall in areas that normally do not see much rain, and drought in areas that are accustomed to more precipitation.  The previous strongest El Niņo, in 1982 - 83, had dramatic effects around the world, including Australia's worst drought in 200 years.  Overall, it was responsible for more than $18 billion in economic damages and 2,000 deaths.

The effects of El Niņo are more direct and dramatic in the tropics.  Some global impacts of El Niņo 1997 - 98 included:

  • Severe drought in some areas of Indonesia as the dry summer season arrived early.  This contributed to extreme forest fires that blanketed South Asia in smoke and haze.

  • Severe storms in central Chile in June, July and August, with rainfall totaling 10 times the normal amount for an entire year.  Santiago, the capital, received more than a year's worth of rain (300mm) in June.

  • The worst drought in 50 years for Papua New Guinea.

  • Crop and livestock losses exceeding $130 million in New Zealand because of dry weather.

  • Sweltering summer heat in areas of Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to China, including the most severe heat wave this century.

  • Unpredictable monsoons in Pakistan and Northwestern India, with spotty rain in some areas and torrential rain in others.

  • Much higher than normal winter rainfall for the Southern United States, producing flooding in California and Texas, and wetter weather in Florida

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Reference: El Nino Fact Sheet - Environment Canada

  • The phrase "El Niņo" refers to the Christ Child and was coined by fishermen along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru to describe the warm ocean current that typically appeared around Christmas time and lasted for several months.

  • El Niņo is the second largest driver of the world's weather, second only to normal seasonal warming and cooling, which also brings changes in precipitation patterns.

  • El Niņos appear approximately every two to seven years. They typically last 12 to 18 months.  In the early 1990s a protracted El Niņo Persisted for four years.

  • El Niņos have been documented since the early 1700's. More detailed observations from ships led to instrumental record keeping in the earlier half of this century.  It is only since the 1970's, however, that scientists began linking El Niņo to massive flooding and severe droughts around the world.

  • About every four to five years, a pool of cooler-than-normal water develops off South America.  The effects of this cooler water are called El Niņo.  This usually brings colder winters to the Canadian West and Alaska and drier, warmer weather to the American Southeast.

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Reference: El Nino Fact Sheet - Environment Canada

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