The people who know El Nino best

In Spanish, El Nino means 'the male infant” or, when capitalized, the Christ child. Peruvians began applying the term to the ocean and atmosphere more than a century ago. Navy captain Camilo Carrillo noted in 1892 that local sailors referred to a periodic warming of the Pacific, which often occurred around Christmas, as El Nino. Immediately near the coast, waters can warm by more than 5°C/9°F. Unable to handle the change, millions offish may scatter or die off, including anchovies. In turn comes the starvation of many thousands of pelagic sea birds who feast on the fish. These pelicans, cormorants and other species are locally referred to as guano birds, after their excrement, which happens to make a marvellous fertilizer. Guano was big business until Peruvians exhausted gigantic piles built up by the birds over centuries. Later, when anchovies became a highly popular fish meal, Peru briefly became the world's leading exporter of fish. But the El Nino of 1972-73 occurred just as overfishing was ravaging the anchovy stocks, and the reverberations were felt around the world. Peru's fisheries haven't been the same since.