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El Niño 2016

Photo: climate.gov

Photo: climate.gov

This winter the northern hemisphere has seen an unusual amount of good swell, especially in the Pacific. Jaws has been firing on almost a weekly basis, this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro has been considered one of the best Pipe events ever held, California surfers have been getting barreled so many times, some of them it is rumored haven’t seen the sun in weeks, and this Wednesday after 6 years of waiting The Eddie almost got a go.

One name seems to always come up together with all the insane swell reports and forecasts this winter has brought us: El Niño. But what exactly is El Niño? What is all the fuzz about? And could it be this guy?

Well what we can definitely take away from this video – except for bad Spanish maybe – is that El Niño has to do with strong weather events. However, it is much more than a tropical storm. In reality El Niño is an anomaly of the surface temperatures of the water in the equatorial region of the Pacific. Normally the surface water warmed up by the sun in the tropical regions of the pacific is blown westward by strong trade winds, where it gathers just east of Indonesia and northern Australia. This westward move of warm water masses allows cold deep sea water to rise in the east Pacific, creating a temperature gradient along the equator. Every two to seven years, however, for reasons not fully understood yet, the trade winds heavily lose strength, break down, or even reverse during the winter. The resulting eastward shift of the warmer surface water to the South and Central American coast and the weather phenomena caused by it is known as El Niño. These phenomena range from draughts in South East Asia to unusually heavy rainfalls on the normally much drier west coast of South America. This video explains the event in more detail.

The video mentions, next to a number of more worrysome effects like heat waves and coral bleaching, one, that has been raising the happiness score of surfers across the northern pacific to probably even surpass that of Buthan, an increase in cyclones. These cyclones have been producing huge swells across the region, causing especially big waves, like Peahi (Jaws) on Maui and California’s Maverick’s, that ususally only break a few times a year, to basically fire all winter. Here is an El Niño roundup of the Hawaiian winter so far.

But not only Hawaiian surfers have been frolocking with this year’s El Niño, the Californian coast has also seen constant above average quality swells.

So far it looks like this year’s El Niño will enter history books as the strongest since the beginning of recordings. And though meteorologists forecast it to gradually start losing in force over the next few months, one can never be sure, as no two El Niños have ever been the same, neither in development, nor in effects. What is sure , however, is that although it is a regional event, El Niño affects the weather around the globe. Let’s hope, that surfers in Europe‘s version of Hawaii, the Canary Islands, will also continue to be treated with exceptional swells for the rest of the season, just like their brothers on the other side of the globe.

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