Friday, June 10, 2016

The Fallacy of El Nino

One of interesting ideas of theorists is in trying to get Lehi in Nephi’s ship to their Land of Promise locations and in order to do that, several have latched onto the idea of the El Niño reversal of the Pacific Counter Current; however, what few seem to know, or pay attention to, is the facts behind this occasional event.
1: North Pacific Gyre (North Equatorial Current), 2: Equatorial Counter-Current; 3: South Pacific Gyre (South Equatorial Current)
First of all, there are three basic currents in the entire Pacific Ocean, the North Pacific Gyre, which is a clockwise current in the northern waters that circulate around the Pacific Ocean, combining several smaller currents, such as the Kuroshio and California currents; the South Pacific Gyre, which circulates in a counter-clockwise manner, and includes the East Australia Current, and the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current, and a very weak Equatorial Counter Current (generally called the doldrums), which flows West to East between the bottom arm of the North Pacific Gyre, called the North Equatorial Current, which flows East to West and the top arm of the South Pacific Gyre, called the South Equatorial Current.
    Secondly, there are several factors involved in these three currents, only two of which are strong enough to drive a deep ocean vessel across the seas by being “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9). These factors, include the warm and cold temperatures of the ocean that these gyres, which are large systems of circular ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation, bringing down from the Arctic and up from the Antarctic colder Pacific waters, driving what is called the Ocean’s Conveyor Belt, which circulates ocean water around the entire planet. Also known as thermohaline circulation, the ocean conveyor belt is essential for regulating temperature, salinity and nutrient flow throughout the ocean. This thermohaline is the movement of water between the cold depths and warm surface waters, necessary to circulate the cold nutrients of the ocean depths to the surface and back again.
The South Pacific Circulation Gyre running counter clockwise; in the north, the North Pacific circulation Gyre runs clockwise
    Three forces cause the circulation of a gyre—global wind patterns, Earth’s rotation, and Earth’s landmasses, as wind drags on the ocean surface, causing water to move in the direction the wind is blowing. Earth’s rotation, which creates the Coriolis effect, pushes the ocean currents to the right in the Northern Hemisphere in a clockwise motion, and in the Southern Hemisphere, the ocean currents are pushed to the left, in a counter-clockwise motion.
    Land masses, such as continents and islands, also influence the creation o f ocean gyres, with the massive South Pacific gyre covering hundreds of miles of open ocean, bound only by the continents of Australia and South America as well as the Equator and powerful Antarctic Circumpolar current. Thus, the Southern Ocean below this gyre runs unbounded around the entire planet in what is now called the Southern Ocean.
    It should be noted then, that as long as the land masses surrounding this gyre are not changed, and the planet continues to rotate, and the Coriolis Effect continues to direct the ocean flow, these currents will remain—which is to say, they are unchangeable. While the Indian Ocean gyre experiences seasonal reversals of currents (called Monsoons and Trade Winds), the Pacific gyres do not, but remain constant throughout the year.
    Now, as mentioned above, between these two powerful gyres in the Pacific Ocean, sandwiched in between the powerful North and South Equatorial west-flowing currents, runs the Equatorial Counter Current, though it actually flows around 3º to 9º north latitude, not actually along the equator. While it has some movement, it is a geostrophic flow, which means it has a water wave with a frequency of zero; that is, it is of little force and while it is called a current, much of the time it is stagnant, creating the famed doldrums where strong constant winds are absent, that have stranded more than one ship during the Age of Sale that was unfortunate enough to get caught in it as did Magellan’s fleet; however, the higher western sea levels do flow downslope to the east. In fact, this counter-current is at its strongest from July to September (austral winter) and are also at their northernmost positions during this time.
This means that throughout the year, for a ship to rely on this counter-current to take their vessel to the east (from Indonesia to the Western Hemisphere around Ecuador, South America), the chances are mute, since the currents directly on the north and south are flowing so heavily toward the west, moving from Ecuador to Indonesia. It is these same latter currents that flow to and through Indonesia that keep ships from moving from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific when they are “driven forth before the wind.”
    Consequently, it would not be possible to sail from Indonesia to Ecuador along this counter-current in Nephi’s ship that relied on the wind to “push” it forward.
    Thus, we come to El Niño.
    Now El Niño is a reversal of these three currents to the extent that, the two equatorial currents lose some of their force flowing West, and the counter-current builds up extensive force in flowing East toward the Western Hemisphere, in what is called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomena. In fact, El Niño (unusually warm temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific) and La Niña (unusually cold temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific) are the popular terms for alternating phases of ocean temperature in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America.
While this sounds like the answer to bringing Nephi’s ship eastward across the central Pacific, the opposite is true. This is because the El Niño and La Niña occur along with hurricanes and tropical cyclones that bring enormous damage to the islands across the Pacific both Niños encounter, as well as both North and South America coastal conditions, not to mention the hurricanes that slam into Mesoamerica, and the Gulf of Mexico, and as far east as the Atlantic.
    For many years, meteorologists have known that ENSO strongly affects tropical cyclone activity around the world. In some basins, El Niño events increase tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific, through decreases it in the Atlantic, the Northwest Pacific west of 160 E, and the Australian region. La Niña events typically bring opposite conditions. During El Niño events, increased vertical shear is primarily due to increases in the climatological westerly winds in the upper troposphere, increasing the numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes, and also a three-to-one increase in the ratio in continental U.S. landfalling intense hurricanes. Recently, Mark C. Bove et al. (1998) with the Center for Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Department of Meteorology Floridata State University, and Hurricane Research Division NOAA, analyzed all continental U.S. landfalling hurricanes and intense hurricanes of this century by the concurrent phase of ENSO.
In short, El Niño brings extensive damage across the Pacific during El Niño and La Niña years, bringing record-breaking storms,  floods, mudslides and damage to the islands and mainland along its path. It also caused “two to three times the number of tropical cyclones in the eastern Pacific,” and strong storms and high winds in the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), which is a relatively narrow band in the tropics where the trade winds of the north and south Eastern Pacific Oceans come together, and even deeper, widespread convection occurs during El Niño, leading to stronger and more abundant thunderstorms with heavy rain showers and down draft winds at the surface that can reach 50 to 60 knots! In short, even today with all the modern equipment aboard ships, it is best to stay clear of sailing in El Niño weather, and ships are often told to enter a port and wait things out.
Even in port, ships are not safe during El Niño. The damage that is caused every nine or ten years is devastating
It is hardly the answer to bring Lehi in Nephi’s ship with an inexperienced crew across the Pacific during El Niño. Even the most experienced sailing crews are advised to stay in port during El Niño.

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