Ecuador, El Niño: Expert states “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Posted on December 27, 2015 • Filed under: Ecuador Travel, Enviromental Issues, Weather/Climate reported in 1997, Ecuador’s climate forecasters achieved one of their greatest successes on record, and its government responded with a massive failure.

We accurately predicted six months in advance that a strong El Niño phenomenon would hit Ecuador,” says Rodney Martinez, who was then head of the Marine Sciences Department at the Ecuadorian Navy’s Oceanographic Institute. “It was a great accomplishment.”

In South America, Ecuador and northern Peru receive the brunt of El Niño’s impacts, and severe downpours could begin before the end of 2015. During the El Niño of 1997–98, the strongest in recorded history, precipitation in Ecuador was more than double that of a normal rainy season.

“The effects of El Niño are felt in several of the continent’s regions,” Martinez says. “But in Ecuador and Peru, they’re like a direct blow.”


Perhaps remembering the cautionary lessons of 1997, the Ecuadorian government is working to anticipate the effects. Over the past several years, the government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in six water-management “mega projects” meant to improve irrigation and prevent flooding. Ecuador’s water secretariat estimates that over 140,000 hectares of land will be protected from flooding, benefiting 330,000 residents. Four of the projects are complete, and President Rafael Correa said in November that the remaining two are on schedule to be finished by the end of the year.

Another area of concern is public health. Flooding typically attracts mosquitoes, increasing the transmission of diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever. In 1997 and 1998, water contamination also led to an outbreak of cholera. Moreover, Martinez is urging the Ministry of Health to speed up its importation of anti-venom for snakebites, which have been responsible for a significant number of deaths during previous El Niños. Read Article

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