Off Center

… with a high in the low 9000’s

It’s about time for humanity to band together as a race and take El Niño down once and for all.

Since the late ’70s, there have been too many El Niños for our comfort. Disaster has come hard on the heels of disaster: alterations in rainfall globally, crops failing, mudslides, monsoons, the Republican Revolution, David Hasselhoff as an international singing star. It’s reached the point where a mention of El Niño on the news is about as common as Clinton’s indiscretions. The folks on the news look haggard as they fly from Washington DC to California and back again, covering these same two stories. Maybe someone should ask Clinton to sexually harass El Niño in a hotel room and save our nation’s news industry all the travel.

But anyway. El Niño is characterized by an unusual easterly flow of warm water in the Pacific. Or maybe it’s a westerly current. To be honest, I can never remember. When analysts come on TV and show their colored maps of water flow in the Pacific, all I can do is sit and marvel that people are getting paid for charting this stuff. I get the feeling their jobs all started out as a big practical joke. “Hey,” they said among themselves, “let’s see if the government’ll send us to Maui to ‘chart the warm ocean currents.'” Then they all sniggered in their nerdy way and went back to designing the H-Bomb.

However, someone must have looked up from his mai-tai and actually charted a current or two, because suddenly El Niño is all over the news as the cause of some pesky changes in the global climate over the last 20 years. Whereas before about 1980, the warm water was going one way one year and then back the other way the next year, now the warm water is only going one way year after year. Where does it go, is what I’m wondering. Maybe it’s just smashing up offshore California someplace, piling up one year on top of another, building, building, until someday the pressure will get to be too much and a huge tepid tsunami will engulf Topeka.

So we can all see that El Niño has to be stopped. Unfortunately, scientists are still debating what has caused this new behavior in world weather patterns. All the usual suspects have been tapped: global warming, global cooling, CFCs, pollution, the Republican Revolution, David Hass — oh, wait, I’ve done that joke already. I’ll start again.

What has changed the mood of our planet’s weather? I’ve spent an unprecedented amount of time for me — nearly 15 seconds — thinking about the cause of El Niño, and think I know what happened 20-odd years ago to move the water across the Pacific:

The Japanese trade deficit.

Think about it. Before 1978 or so, ships were going back and forth from the US to Japan at a pretty even rate. But soon the Japanese began making really good, cheap stuff, and more and more ships traveled from Japan to the US, bringing all the Western Pacific warm water in their wake. By the time Americans discovered we could make some good stuff too, the water in the Pacific was already accustomed to going our way.

So in conclusion, to save the world from El Niño, buy American. And I’d like to continue this train of thought, but the doctor says I have to take my medication now.