El Niño-Southern Oscillation

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El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasi-periodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean on average every five years, but over a period which varies from three to seven years. It is characterized by variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean - warming or cooling known as El Niño and La Niña respectively - and air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific - the Southern Oscillation. The two variations are coupled: the warm oceanic phase, El Niño, accompanies high air surface pressure in the western Pacific, while the cold phase, La Niña, accompanies low air surface pressure in the western Pacific.[2][3] Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study.

ENSO causes extreme weather such as floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world. Developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected. In popular usage, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation is often called just "El Niño". El Niño is Spanish for "the boy" and refers to the Christ child, because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is usually noticed around Christmas.[4]

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