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  • Tifaine Tordjmann

What is Going on With the Waves? “El Niño” Explained

On Thursday December 28, a rogue wave hit the Ventura coast, sending nearly ten people to the hospital. Many consider these high tides to be alarming, rogue waves being a rare and potentially dangerous ocean phenomenon in which waves can suddenly appear that are two to three times higher than the surrounding waves. This last month, we have been seeing powerful cyclones over Northern-Pacific waters, sending 12-17 ft swells with predicted waves up to 25 ft. But what is the cause of these gigantic waves? 

While the waves are a result of violent storms located in the pacific that are bringing high winds and seas to coastal areas, El Niño is also a significant factor. El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern associated with the warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and Eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The pattern is causing larger waves than usual, and observers are noticing the correlation between these large waves and El Niño because ocean waves are created by air pressure systems, and strong El Niño’s mean that low-pressure systems can be more intense, causing even larger waves. 

Credit: News19 Article by Danielle Dozier & Aaron Ayers

What is truly at the center of this issue is global warming. El Niño, which brings larger, more energetic waves, more impactful winter storms and higher sea levels, is correlated with global heating, leading to more frequent and extreme El Niño events. High tides, coastal flooding, and severe erosion is threatening for beach cities and communities like those on

the Ventura coast. Towns are being flooded, homes and buildings are being destroyed, and local economies are temporarily falling apart. On a global scale, these large waves are a sign of the effects that global warming will continue to have on our ecosystems if we don’t make efforts to make a change, and events like those that have happened this last month will only continue to be the new normal. 


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