[INFOGRAPHIC] Learn just what exactly is an El Niño

We are currently in what is predicted to be the most intense El Niño event on record.

El Niño and Southern Oscillation (together making ENSO- El Niño Southern Oscillation) are terms that are frequently used in the mainstream media, but what these terms mean, and how they actually work, aren't really explained.

I'm here to break down what an El Niño actually is (with a handy infographic to help too), and why it's such a big issue on the east coast of Australia.

The ENSO, in its basic form, is the changes of ocean temperatures in different parts of the Equatorial Pacific. Over the course of a few years, temperatures fluctuate between warmer waters off the coast of South America (El Niño) and cooler waters off the coast of South America (La Niña).

These temperature changes are driven by the South East Trade Winds, which are in turn generated by a combination of the intense heat from the sun at the equator and the daily turning of the earth. In an El Niño event, the trade winds stall, slowing the ocean currents that usually push warm water into the Pacific Ocean gyre, which sits close to Australia. This means that the gyre spreads out, and warm sea surface temperatures occupy a larger area of the Pacific Ocean.

So what can we do, now that we're in an El Niño?

Saving water through our household usage, cutting down on our dairy and meat intake and our paper usage (including coffee cups) are good places to start. Our marine ecosystems generally struggle in an El Niño as well, so ensuring you buy sustainable seafood, or even going without for a while, is even more important than usual at the moment.

El Niño events are a natural fluctuation in the ocean cycle, but they appear to be intensifying due to climate change; it's important that we recognise how these fluctuations impact on the land, and adjust our consumption to accommodate for them.

READ THIS NEXT: In the midst of a drought, why is California still consuming so much bottled water?

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