El Niño, a climatic disturbance that shifts much of the world's weather pattern every 2–7 years, has returned and is probably near the midpoint of its expected 18-month life cycle, according to an announcement by the National Weather Service (NWS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This El Niño appears to be much milder than its predecessor 4 years ago, from April 1982 to July 1983. That event, the worst in more than 100 years, caused floods and droughts that led to more than 1000 deaths and $2 billion to $8 billion in economic losses.
The phenomenon comes about when equatorial winds that normally blow the Pacific Ocean's surface waters from east to west weaken or reverse themselves. The warm surface waters then flow from west to east. Results include a decrease in rainfall in the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea, and Southern Africa; increased rainfall in the South American coast, the southeastern United States, and eastern Africa; and milder than normal weather in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, western Canada, and Alaska. The current El Niño was successfully predicted by at least three different scientific models, according to The New York Times, although the event began somewhat later than expected.