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El Niño and La Niña Explained

NOAA Ocean Today

This short video illustrates the phenomena of El Niño and La Niña: their relationships to tradewinds and surface water temperatures, and their effects on precipitation in North America.

Video length is 1:54 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educator could use video as a short introduction to El Niño and La Niña and then allow for a more in-depth examination of factors that contribute to the conditions that lead to these phenomena, as well as the extreme weather situations that result from them.
  • The resource could also be used as a refresher or review.

About the Science

  • Video describes the basics of how trade winds and the movement of water in the Pacific Ocean cause El Niño and La Niña. Simple graphics show the winds and currents. The video touches on some of the effects of El Niño and La Niña, but does not go into much detail.
  • Video emphasizes El Niño's effects on North America, but El Niño's effects are felt worldwide.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Excellent, simple graphic
    - Relates to the weather in N. America (jet stream)

    - lacks discussion on time-scales of El Nino/La Nina
    - lacks discussion of atmospheric pressure anomalies (but maybe too advanced for this resource)
    - Would be super helpful to introduce "thermocline" in narrative/graphic. the thermocline is there - just not defined

About the Pedagogy

  • Because El Niño and La Niña are complicated topics, this short video is helpful to show a quick and simple explanation. The basic concept is reinforced by simple graphics and arrows illustrating the narration. The explanation is not complex, which is useful for audiences for whom a more technical explanation might be overwhelming.
  • The oversimplified text presents a very broad-brush picture of El Niño and La Niña, raising many "why?" questions about the changing conditions that lead to these phenomena.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video can be accessed several ways. It can be played in the browser, it can be downloaded in two different resolutions, or it can be embedded.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Additional videoclips explaining El Niño and La Niña and their global impacts are available by scrolling to the bottom of NOAA's webpage: https://www.climate.gov/enso

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

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