El Niño and La Niña are the two opposite phases of weather patterns. Both of these are the phases of ENSO, which is an abbreviation of El Niño-Southern Oscillation. They both play a prominent role in the global atmospheric circulation. The ENSO describes the fluctuations that take place between the atmosphere and the ocean in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. El Nino is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the La Nina is the cold.
Definition of El Nino
El Nino, which is the warm phase, is a Spanish for ‘the boy,’ or ‘little boy.’ It is usually witnessed in December, and refers to the periodic warming of the temperatures of the ocean surface in the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific. The term El Nino was originally used by the fishermen of Peru, who would come across a phenomenon of a warm ocean current off the South American coast. El Nino, which has been around for many centuries, recurs every few years, and usually lasts for 12 months.
La Nina is the exact opposite of the El Nino, and translates to ‘the Little Girl.’ As opposed to the El Nino, which is warm, La Nina refers to the cooling of the ocean surface and describes the below average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Equatorial Pacific. It is witnessed much less than its counterpart El Nino, but usually lasts longer.
Impact on the climate
The El Niño and La Niña phenomenon has a severe impact on the climate. It is instrumental in disrupting the normal weather patterns in many parts of the world. In some place, El Nino may cause storms, and in others it may lead to droughts. It affects the agriculture of the nations and can have a devastating effect on the economy. It also can lead to health risks, and has been responsible for the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue, etc.