Topic |  


Topic |  


Nowadays when we hear of the term “El Niño” it connotes a long dry weather bordering on drought.  We are just told by PAGASA that it is caused by weather disturbances caused by warm temperature of the Pacific Ocean.

If you will search in the Internet about El Niño you will be told about the warming of the ocean waters due to the heat of the sun and you will be shown in the map a location near the South American country of Ecuador where the supposed heat source comes from.  You are not told what is there at the particular place.

El Niño


In the early 1800s the German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt reported that a few hundred kilometers offshore from Ecuador, towards the Pacific Ocean, was a yearly occurrence where the ocean waters seems to boil.  The place will teem with huge quantity of fishes.  Since it will occur every December 24 or 25, and December 25 is the birthday of Jesus Christ, the phenomenon was referred as “El Niño” or Child Jesus.

For hundreds of years nobody knew what the cause of the occurrence was.  When the modern sciences of seismology and seismic engineering were developed it was soon discovered what the cause was.


The sciences of seismology and seismic engineering say that the earth’s crust is full of cracks.  These cracks are called fault lines.  When these fault lines move, it will cause earthquakes.

These fault lines are the boundaries of huge plates of the earth’s crust.  In the Pacific Ocean there is the Pacific Plate.  To the western side of the South American continent and towards the Pacific Ocean is the Nazca Plate.  At the western side of Central America is the Cocos Plate.  The boundaries or fault lines of these three great plates happen to intersect at the location a few hundred kilometers offshore from the country of Ecuador along the equator.

As nature has it the intersection is not a perfect fit.  There is a gap at the intersection that serves as a vent for the heat from underneath the earth.  This situation is not unique because there are other locations similar to it.


Heated Water


When the heat from underneath the earth escapes through the huge vent, the sea water from underneath the ocean is also heated.  The heated water will rise to the surface and evaporates to form clouds in the atmosphere.  The process goes on all the time.

What is unique is that during winter time in the northern hemisphere the fishes will migrate towards warm waters.  It so happens that the fishes will arrive at the place every December 24 or 25.  Due to the huge quantity of fishes the ocean surface will seem to boil and the phenomenon was called “El Niño”.  Some scientists call the gap that produces hot water as the Von Humboldt’s Vent.

The Atmosphere


The atmosphere above the place will have plenty of clouds due to the evaporated sea water.  Since the earth is rotating from west to east with respect to the north pole, the huge cloud will be drifted across the Pacific Ocean towards the Asian Continent.

There is no fixed route of this drifted cloud.  So many factors can cause it to drift towards the Philippines, China, or Japan.  However, this drifted cloud is a good feeder for the formation of typhoons.


While the Von Humboldt’s Vent produces a stream of clouds above, the Pacific Ocean also gives off evaporation due to the heat of the sun.  There will soon come a time that the two evaporations will combine and form into a typhoon.

Effect of the Typhoon

When a typhoon occurs it will draw to it the clouds or evaporated waters from the surrounding areas.  The surrounding areas will become dry while the typhoon area will be very wet.  Both phenomena is associated to the Humboldt’s Vent and for lack of term or name is also called “El Niño”.  So actually there is a wet “El Niño” and dry “El Niño”.

As fate has it, during the time that the phenomenon was understood, the Philippines was experiencing the dry El Niño.  So we associate El Niño as a dry period.  When it will be our turn to have the wet El Niño, we can no longer call it as such, because it will cause confusion.  So it was given the name “La Niña” or the “Baby girl”.  Anyway nobody would associate the El Niño to the phenomenon near Ecuador.

Due to modern technology we can see in television the path of a series of typhoons or the wet El Niño going towards Japan.  Since the typhoons will draw towards it the cloud cover above the Philippines, we are told by PAGASA that our dry El Niño will last until December.

Our Ignorance

Why are we ignorant of the root cause?  It is because the science of meteorology deals only with the rise and fall of the water.  It has not yet taken into consideration the heating up of the water due to cracks in the earth and the effects of molten magma.

The sciences also of seismology and seismic engineering deals only about fault lines and earthquakes and will not deal with effects of molten magma.  In between, there is yet another science called “Volcanology” that has not yet bridged the gap between meteorology and seismology.

As a seismic engineer I’m just trying to explain what causes the heating up of the sea waters near Ecuador that is a contributing factor to El Niño. The literature in the Internet does not explain it. (By JES B. TIROL)

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