In the coming months, Pacific Island countries can expect a barrage of rain, flooding, and higher sea levels triggered by a weather pattern that has irregularly visited their borders every two to seven years for more than 125,000 years. The phenomenon called El Niño is expected to mirror the worst recorded occurrence in 1997/98, which wreaked havoc, causing widespread destruction, severe drought, and the spread of infectious diseases from a lack of water for sanitation.

El Niño, which occurs when Pacific trade winds die out and ocean temperatures become unusually warm, is the warm phase of an oscillation called the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Named by fisherman off the coast of South America, El Niño, or “the little one” in Spanish, originates in the tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system, and affects weather pattern variability all over the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Senior climate scientists at NOAA Climate predict the pending occurrence will be “pretty strong,” based on June to August average sea surface temperatures at 2.2 degree Fahrenheit (1.22 degrees Celsius) above normal, the third highest value since the records started in 1950.

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