In California, they're counting on it to end a historic drought; in Peru, they've declared a pre-emptive emergency to prepare for devastating flooding. It's an economic stimulus and a recession-maker. And it's likely to increase the price of coffee, chocolate and sugar.
It's El Niño — most likely, the largest in well over a decade, forecasters say. A lot more than mere weather, it affects lives and pocketbooks in different ways in different places.
Every few years, the wind shifts and the water in the Pacific Ocean gets warmer than usual. That water sloshes back and forth around the equator in the Pacific, interacts with the winds above and then changes weather worldwide. This is El Niño. Droughts are triggered in places such as Australia and India, but elsewhere, droughts are quenched and floods replace them. The Pacific gets more hurricanes; the Atlantic fewer. Winter gets milder and wetter in much of the United States. The world warms, goosing Earth's already rising thermometer from man-made climate change.
"Around the world, crops fail in some places, thrive elsewhere. Commercial fishing shifts. More people die of flooding, fewer from freezing. Americans spend less on winter heating. The global economy shifts."