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    How the Climate Phenomenon Known as El Nino Received Its Name

    Clark Stoner - Saturday, December 06, 2014


    The following quote is given in the introduction to an excellent (scholarly) book by George Philander of Princeton University ("El Niño, La Niña and the Southern Oscillation", Academic Press, 1990). These are remarks quoted from Senor Federico Alfonso Pezet's address to the Sixth International Geographical Congress in London in 1895.

    In the year 1891, Senor Dr Luis Carranza, President of the Lima Geographical Society, contributed a small article to the Bulletin of that Society, calling attention to the fact that a countercurrent flowing from north to south had been observed between the ports of Paita and Pacasmayo.

    The Paita sailors, who frequently navigate along the coast in small craft, either to the north or the south of that port, name this countercurrent the current of "El Niño" (the child Jesus) because it has been observed to appear immediately after Christmas.

    As this countercurrent has been noticed on different occasions, and its appearance along the Peruvian coast has been concurrent with rains in latitudes where it seldom if ever rains to any great extent, I wish, on the present occasion, to call the attention of the distinguished geographers here assembled to this phenomenon, which exercises, undoubtedly, a very great influence on the climatic conditions of that part of the world.

    Well, it seems Senor Pezet miscalculated the influence of El Nino on the global scale.  It is certainly interesting that back in the 1800s sailors off the coast of Peru were noticing relationships between ocean currents and rainfall quantities. 


    For more info on questions related to El Nino, visit Dr. William Kessler's website at the University of Washington.


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