The weather phenomenon known as El Nino usually peaks around Christmas time. The Child refers to the child that was born about 2000 years ago. One was to be the prince of peace, this other one brings much misfortune.
This year we are experiencing what has come to be called an El Nino year. The Pacific Ocean water is warmer than usual in its east. This affects the atmosphere around the globe which in turn affects weather around the world.
Researchers can predict that weather patterns are likely to change in an El Nino or a La Nina year but don’t link particular storms or anomalous temperatures to the weather phenomenon. Researchers at the US institutes NASA and NOAA have predicted that North America will likely experience a warmer than average winter for the west coast and extending across the continent almost to the east coast. South of that, they predicted an amplified storm track across the US.
It is hard for the ordinary citizen to not link extreme weather events to the Child.
The driest place on Earth is flooding. The Atacama Desert in Chile is located between two mountain ranges running north south along Chile’s coastline. The mountains force the clouds to drop their moisture on the sea side of the mountains, leaving little for the high desert.
The warm Pacific Ocean has brought rain to the Andes Mountains. This has melted snow and it has rushed down the slopes with a vengeance. Rivers have overflowed and devastated towns in the desert. This is the worst flood in the Atacama Desert in 80 years.
Mud has flowed through towns, burying them under knee high black muck that quickly hardens. The central highway of Chile has been blocked with mud and boulders.
There are at least 25 people confirmed dead but 125 people are missing. Rescue teams are using sniffer dogs to try to recover bodies buried in the mud. There is an extreme shortage of potable water.
President Michelle Bachelet visited the devastated areas and pledged to see that the people were helped to rebuild.
The Atacama Desert has droughts as long as 400 years. At lower levels, sea fog rolls in to condense but little measurable rain falls, an average of 0.01cm per year.
The devastation has been made worse by shanty settlements in ravine areas. While traditionally people did not live in such dangerous places, crowding has forced some to occupy them.
The high desert is known for its mineral riches. The world’s biggest copper mine is located there. Other minerals include gold and silver.