EL NIÑO'S POWERFUL REACH   What is
El Niņo?
Clues From
the Past
Long Distance
Connections
Winners &
Losers
El Niņo
Lowdown

Left 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Monsoon Connection Right

Warmer (yellow) ocean surface temperatures at the beginning of the 20th century
This reconstructed map shows warmer (yellow) ocean surface temperatures at the beginning of the 20th century.


In India, the failure of the summer monsoon in India leads to severe drought and famine. A severe famine in 1899-1900 led a British scientist, Sir Gilbert Walker, to try to predict when a monsoon might fail. For decades Walker collected global weather records. He observed that India's failed monsoons correlated with changes in normal weather patterns elsewhere.

NASA scientists can reconstruct sea surface temperature maps of the past using weather records kept by ship crews. The data for 1899-1900 reveal that Peru's coastal waters (yellow) were warmer than normal, indicating an El Niņo event. Without realizing it, Sir Walker had identified an El Nino!
Sir Gilbert Walker
Sir Gilbert Walker