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About the Site
El Nino: The Name and its Meaning
"El Niņo" means different things to different people. In Spanish, el niņo means small boy or child. In capital letters, 'El Niņo' refers to Jesus as an infant. To Peruvians, it has an additional meaning which is the focus of this site: a particular intermittent warm ocean current that moves southward along its coast. It received this name at some before the beginning of the 20th century. The popular contemporary version of how it got its name refers to the fact that warm water appears off the coast of Peru seasonally, beginning around Christmas time, id est during the summer in the Southern Hemisphere which is the Northern Hemisphere winter.
Dictionary definitions of common words often provide several meanings that have been attributed to one word. Sometimes those meanings conflict with each another. For example, "leader" has one definition which states that a leader has the ability to lead; while another definition states that a leader must take action. Though they may overlap, they do not convey the same meaning.
The analogy continues with El Niņo; it can have more than one meaning: it can encompass both the local coastal warming of SST and the much broader and wider ENSO event in the Pacific. Michael H. Glantz has provided this marvelous definition of El Niņo which will be used throughout this site.
El Niņo \el ne nyo noun [Spanish]\ 1: The Christ Child 2: the name given by Peruvian sailors to a seasonal, warm southward-moving current along the Peruvian coast <la corriente del niņo> 3: name given to the occasional return of unusually warm water in the normally cold water [upwelling] region along the Peruvian coast, disrupting local fish and bird populations 4: name given to a Pacific basin-wide increase in both sea surface temperatures in the central and/or eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and in sea level atmospheric pressure in the western Pacific (Southern Oscillation) 5: used interchangeably with ENSO (El Niņo-Southern Oscillation), which describes the basin-wide changes in air-sea interaction in the equatorial Pacific region 6: ENSO warm event synonym warm event antonym SEE La Nina \ [Spanish] \ the young girl; cold event; ENSO cold event; non-El Niņo year; anti-El Niņo or anti-ENSO (pejorative); El Viejo \ el vya ho \ noun [Spanish] \ the old man
[M. H. Glantz]