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El Nina/ La Nino

El Nina / La Nino

Its impact on weather in Malaysia

What is El Niño?

Every two to seven years, a warm current of water replaces the usual cold current of water off the west coast of Peru, South America. This observed oceanic phenomenon is called El Niño. This warming is now known to occur over a wider area covering the central and eastern Pacific and has linkage with the occurrence of some major unusual weather conditions in different parts of the world like severe floods and prolonged droughts. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australia, drier than normal conditions occur whereas central and eastern equatorial Pacific is unusually wet.

Typically, El Niño lasts between 6 and 18 months. It usually develop in the middle of the year, peaks towards the end of the year and declines by early part of the following year. El Niño of the same intensity may not give rise to exact replicate of climate patterns.

How is El Nino linked with the atmospheric conditions?

During El Niño period, warmer water in the central and eastern Pacific supplies the atmosphere immediately above it with additional heat and moisture. It favours strong rising motion and thus lowers the atmospheric surface pressure in the rising motion area. The raising moist air condenses to form large areas of thunderstorm clouds and heavy rainfall in the area. In the western part of the Pacific including the Malaysian region, atmospheric pressure increases, resulting in relatively drier weather.


During El Niño conditions, low atmospheric surface pressure is located over the warmer ocean surface, indicated by red over the central Equatorial Pacific. In the absence of El Niño or under normal conditions, the atmospheric surface pressure over the western Pacific is usually low while that over the central and eastern Pacific is high. Under such conditions, the western Pacific is generally wet and the central and eastern Pacific are generally dry.
(Diagram Source: NOAA)
This alternating atmospheric surface pressure pattern in the tropical Pacific ocean as the oceanic condition changes from El-Niño to normal and vice versa is called the Southern Oscillation. The coupling relationship between the atmosphere and the ocean during El Niño events is known as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
(Diagram Source: NOAA)


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