This is the third and final article in our series focussing on the Season of Creation.
El Niño: A Time to Love our Neighbour
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
On the 19th of September, right in the middle of our 2023 Season of Creation we received an announcement: an El Niño is underway. This was an announcement met with a complex mix of emotions – concern for those impacted by drought and low rainfall, relief for those still recovering from flood, and sorrow from those focused on longer term climate. What will the next few months hold? What will the weather be? How will God work through this time? We simply don’t know. But as we sit in the middle of this early Spring I invite you to reflect on the ways El Niño can bring us closer to God and to each other.
What is El Niño? What can it and can’t it do? The easiest way to think about it is that an El Niño event means the tropical waters northeast of Australia (the Coral Sea and western Pacific) are cooler than normal. Cooler water evaporates less, which means there is less moisture in the air to fall out as rain. La Nina is the opposite: our tropical waters get much warmer, leading to lots of evaporation so there’s more moisture in the air to fall out as rain. Weather features such as cold fronts, troughs and storms will still come through and try to use whatever moisture they find in the air, but if there’s not much up there then we’ll see less rainfall on the ground. We don’t know what actual weather systems will come through yet, or exactly where they’ll be, we just know that there’s generally more of a limit on how much rain they can produce. The complexities of the atmosphere above us are fascinating – how wonderful is God to have designed such a system! May the weather you see this Summer inspire awe, and remind you of his infinite power over all creation.
When thinking about creation care, it is hard to separate it from the command to love your neighbour. In El Niño we are reminded that some neighbours are further away than others – El Niño has a Spanish name because it was named by people in South America. For our neighbours in the eastern Pacific an El Niño is a time of rainfall – our waters are cooler, but theirs are warmer than usual. Remember them through these next months, and pray for them and their risk of devastating floods.
El Niño is associated with weather like fires, heatwaves, and drought. The danger of these things can feel closer to us depending on where we live, but may this season serve as a reminder of our Australian community and how the impacts of this weather affect us all. In this time be mindful of how varied those impacts are. Some suggestions for where we can provide help, support and prayer include:
- Agricultural communities impacted by drought.
- The very old and the very young, who are most at risk in heatwaves.
- Those struggling with the cost of living, who might not be able to run air conditioners.
- The impacts low rainfall will have on food and water supplies and costs, if crops fail or water runs out.
- All living things threatened by fire, and for the emergency services people working to protect them.
No matter the weather we know that God is with us. May we be thankful for the many ways he has equipped us to respond to the potential impacts of an El Niño. He works in our emergency services, in our weather forecasters and scientists, in our healthcare workers and in all who provide social services and care for others. If we translate the original Spanish we see that El Niño means “the boy” – and we can treasure this reminder that God sent his only son to this warm earth, for he so loved the world.
Rosa Hoff is a Meteorologist and a member of Our Saviour Lutheran Congregation, Rochedale. Please don’t hesitate to contact Lutheran Earth Care Australia and New Zealand for resources on the Season of Creation and throughout the year. Email email@example.com or check out our website lutheranearthcare.lca.org.au, which also includes the LCA theological statement on “Caring for God’s Creation“.
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