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El Niño


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[Spanish: ‘the (Christ) child’]

A warm southward-flowing current that appears along the coast of Ecuador and Peru around Christmas. It was considered to bring a pleasant respite from the cold Peru Current, and provide welcome rains to the barren coastal region. The term was subsequently extended to apply to the much more dramatic events that occur every few years when high sea-surface temperatures apply over a wide area of the central and eastern Pacific. Now viewed as the ‘warm’ phase of the overall El Niño Southern Oscillation. See also La Niña.

Subjects: Environmental Science — Earth Sciences and Geography.


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