“Strange whales, playful porpoise, out-of-place sailfish and marlin - these are just some of the offshore oddities accompanying El Niño’s dramatic ocean-warming along the Pacific Coast [of California] this year” (Stienstra, 1997).
How did we get so far so fast as to confidently link changes in tropical climate to marine ecosystem changes thousands of kilometers distant? For many years now the fishery oceanography community has been aware of the long reach and unusual power of the tropical El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Early indications of an El Niño event are now routinely extended into predictions for ecosystem change not only in the equatorial Pacific, but also in the California Current and even into the Gulf of Alaska. Such predictions are largely based on experience developed from past El Niño events, yet in most cases our understanding of cause and effect has failed to keep pace with our observations and expectations.