Here Comes the Boy

09/01/2023
  • 1 El Nino
    People visit a water park to beat the summer heat in Nanjing City, China, in July. (Imaginechina via AP Images)
  • 2 El Nino
    Rice is on display at Little India, an Indian grocery store in New York. An earlier than expected El Niño brought drier, warmer weather in some parts of Asia and is expected to harm rice production. (AP/Bobby Caina Calvan)
  • 3 El Nino
    A digital billboard displays an unofficial temperature in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, on July 17, 2023. (AP/Matt York)
  • 4 El Nino
    A man makes his way by paddle board through a flooded market district in Sebastopol, California, in February 2019. The last El Niño took place in 2019. (AP/Eric Risberg)
  • 5 El Nino
    A forest fire burns in Xingu Indigenous Park in Brazil’s Amazon basin in 2016. El Niño can change weather patterns, leading to more flooding or wildfires in different areas of the world. (Vinicius Mendonca/IBAMA via AP)
  • 1 El Nino
  • 2 El Nino
  • 3 El Nino
  • 4 El Nino
  • 5 El Nino

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Farmers in Indonesia planted rice early this past spring. They knew hot, dry weather was on the way. Rice planted later might be scorched by the Sun.

As summer advanced, people in China faced a double-whammy of heat and flooding. Many flocked to waterways to cool off from temperatures as high as 100° Fahrenheit. Employers gave workers breaks from the swelter.

Why?

Because of The Little Boy.

El Niño means “little boy” in Spanish. It’s not really a boy, of course, but a climate pattern that occurs when water in part of the Pacific Ocean gets extra warm.

Scientists watch for the boy’s arrival, knowing he’ll arise every two to seven years. People can guess what El Niño will do. But they can’t predict his intensity and schedule as reliably as they can with, say, ocean tides. They wonder: What will the boy bring this year?

Weather watchers zero in on an imaginary rectangle of water south of Hawaii along the Equator. When that spot measures at least 0.9° above normal for three months in a row, El Niño is officially here. If it measures more than 2.7° hotter than usual, scientists know to expect not a little boy but a big boy.

In a normal, non-El-Niño year, strong winds blow across the tropical Pacific, moving west. They push warm water toward Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, cool water rises to the surface on the west coast of South America in a process called “upwelling.” The warm Pacific water gets sucked up into clouds. It rains down on Indonesia and New Guinea. The cool air on the other side of the ocean keeps South America drier than usual.

But El Niño puts everything in reverse. That western wind grows weak and warm waters don’t blow west. Upwelling doesn’t happen normally. Warm surface waters cause more rain near Ecuador, Chile, and Peru. Indonesia and Australia dry out.

El Niño might ruin harvests in southern Africa and make Australia crackle with wildfires. On the other hand, he might douse Argentina with rain. He might break up hurricanes over the Atlantic while causing more storms in the eastern Pacific. While his warm waters harm coral reefs, he delivers a fat, juicy corn crop to the middle of the United States.

Will this “little boy” give you a year of beautiful skies, or will he burn up your crops and then knock down your shed with a hurricane? It all depends on where you live.

He makes lightning for the rain, and He brings forth the wind from His storehouses. — Jeremiah 10:13

Why? God rules the weather. We can guess what might happen, but only He knows for sure.

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