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El Ni·ño (nēnyō)
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n.
A climatic event occurring every two to seven years, characterized by warming of surface waters and reduced upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water off the western coast of South America, causing die-offs of plankton and fish and influencing jet stream winds, altering storm tracks and affecting the climate over much of the world.

[American Spanish (originally used by fisherman in Ecuador and Peru as a name for the warm ocean current typically appearing around Christmastime in El Niño years), from Spanish, the Christ child : el, the (from Latin ille; see al-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) + niño, child (from Old Spanish ninno, from Vulgar Latin *nīnnus).]
(click for a larger image)
El Niño
top: normal water temperatures, with warm water concentrated in the western tropical Pacific
bottom: El Niño conditions, with warm water extending from the western tropical Pacific to the eastern Pacific

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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