The El Niño year is an inter-annual affect, which naturally occurs, where the Earth experiences increase warming. The cause of this is affect is strong and intensive interactions between the surface of the oceans and the atmosphere. Warm water heats the atmosphere around it; this causes the warm air to rise and cool air to drop in a convection current. The increased warm air in the atmosphere has led to increase intensity in storms, droughts and flooding in some areas across the globe.
So why is El Niño an impact to our ocean planet? The unusual warming in the sea causes coral polyps to expel their zooxanthellae, causing the coral to bleach. In 1982-1983, scientists observed a decrease in coral vitality in relation to the El Niño event that had occurred during those years. The study suggested that increased water temperature during El Niño events was linked to coral polyps excreting their zooxanthellae. During February of 1983, corals had began to show sign of being under stress from warming sea temperatures (3-4°C above the seasonal average) and leading up to October (when the event finished), corals in the worst affected areas had been reported to be dying. Discussed in other previous posts, coral bleaching can lead to the collapse of ecosystems and thus the potential extinction of some marine organisms.
So what can you do to help prevent it getting worse? Even though an El Niño is a naturally occurring event, it is majorly impacted by climate change. Climate change causes the planet to warm, and El Niño affects increase the rate of this. In order to slow down the rate at which this happens, small things can be done in your everyday lives. One such example would be to lower your carbon footprints, examples of things you can do to do this are; taking public transport or walking instead of driving and switching off lights when leaving rooms.
Glynn, P. W. and D’Croz, L. (1990). Experimental evidence for high temperature stress
as the cause of El Nifio-coincident coral mortality. Coral Reefs. 8, PP. 181-191