Caroline Arnold's Books

Home My Books Children's Projects School Visits / Teaching Awards About the Author
El Nino: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife El Nino: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife

Drought in Southeast Asia, brutal storms in South America, wildfires in Australia, and spring-like temperatures during winter in the northeastern United States--all these seemingly unrelated events are caused by El Nino. Disrupting weather all over the globe every three to seven years, El Nino is second only to the change of seasons in its influence on the climate.

What is El Nino? It is the name given to the unusual increase in ocean temperatures along the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts that is part of a much larger pattern of changes in wind and weather throughout the Pacific region and beyond. With El Nino come violent storms and upsets in the global food chain a that dramatically affect both humans and wildlife. El Nino: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife explains how this remarkable weather pattern is formed, how scientists track it, and why following its path is of such importance.

Book notes

In December 1997, the front page of the Los Angeles Times featured a picture of an emaciated sea lion over a headline that read, “El Nino Starves Sea Lions, Seals: As warm water drives away prey, 6,000 pups die on one island alone.” It was a heartbreaking photo and made one want to read the story that followed. El Nino is the term used to describe a wide range of cyclic weather events caused by the warming of the central Pacific Ocean. In the western Pacific, El Nino typically creates drought and terrible fires, while in California, where I live, it usually brings an abnormally wet winter with floods and mudslides. Natural disasters are always good topics for nonfiction books, especially when they impact people and the environment. As it happened, I was already at work on my book, El Nino: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife. I clipped out the article and added it to my file. The idea of writing a book about El Nino and its effects on people and wildlife came to me in 1992, when I was researching another book, Sea Lion, a photo essay about two stranded sea lion pups being cared for at a local marine mammal rescue center. I often write about wildlife, an interest that grew out of my childhood summers spent at a camp in northern Wisconsin and I am especially interested in animals that are endangered. When I asked why the animals at the rescue center needed help, I got a long list of reasons ranging from injuries by motorboats and tangled fishing lines to starvation caused by El Nino. (1992 was another El Nino year.) I realized that if sea lions were so devastated by the effects of El Nino, a lot of other animals probably were, too. Over the next year or so, I accumulated more information about El Nino and its influence on wildlife. When it was clear that I had more than enough material to fill a book I wrote a proposal and sent it to my editor. She agreed that the subject would make an interesting book, and so I got started.

Reviews
Booklist, October 1, 1998

Science teachers and students will appreciate this very readable introduction to the El Nino current. In just 48 pages, Arnold explains the complex relationship between the warming of the Pacific current and global weather patterns, describes the effects of the most recent El Nino and notable ones of the past, and discusses the tracking and forecasting of the phenomenon and the importance of scientists's predictions. Difficult concepts and terms are defined in the text and, again, in the glossary, and attractive, full-color photographs and diagrams clearly show El Nino's disruptive effects. A brief listing of suggested resources, including periodical articles, children's books, and the Internet address of the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program, where up-to-date information can be obtained, is appended.

School Library Journal, December 1998

The phenomenon known as El Nino (and its cooler sibling, La Nina) have apparently been upsetting the global applecart on a relatively regular basis for many centuries, but it is only recently, with the use of modern technologies, that scientists have correlated these oceanic effects with disconcertingly dramatic weather on a global scale as well. Arnold has drawn on this body of scientific knowledge to present a picture of the atmospheric and ecological import of such shifts in oceanic temperatures. Her readable, informative text describes the physical symptoms of El Nino and La Nina and their widespread effects, ranging from a quiet hurricane season in Florida to severe drought in the rainforests of Indonesia, and what this means both to animal/plant habitats and human economies. Full-color photos, a computer image series, diagrams and Internet sources bolster the narrative.