El Nino means "the little boy" or "Christ child" in Spanish. South American fishermen used the name years ago to designate periodic cycles of unusually warm water in the Pacific ocean which appear around Christmas time. El Nino conditions occur once water temperatures have warmed enough (.5 degrees Celsius or more above normal) to alter normal cloudiness and rainfall in the Pacific basin. The cycle is every four or five years and can last up to eighteen months. The last El Nino was 1997-1998.March 9, 2002 Washington, D. C. - Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on March 7 that ocean surface temperatures near the South American coast had already warmed 2 degrees Celsius (4 Fahrenheit) by February 2002.
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