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LESSON THIRTY-EIGHT HERE!
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In today’s lesson, entitled Oh No! Another El Niño!, you will listen to a passage about how the unusual warming of surface waters in the South Pacific affects the weather all across the globe. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
Oh No! Another El Niño!
Listen and Learn
Lesson Thirty-Eight PASSAGE ONLY track:
People everywhere love chatting about the weather. Commenting on how hot or cold it is or complaining about the incessant rain or mugginess are dependable “ice-breakers.” And when the weather is extreme or unusual for a region or time of year, it’s all anyone seems to talk about. The weather in 2015 was a particularly “hot topic,” as many regions of the world experienced record-breaking snow, heat, rain, and drought. But meteorologists and oceanographers warn that the worst is yet to come. El Niño, they say, is back, and stronger than ever.
What is El Niño exactly? In a nutshell, El Niño is the abnormal warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon occurs irregularly at two-to-seven-year intervals, but its strength is not predictable like that of ocean tides. El Niño has an impact on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and weather from Australia to South America—and quite often, the rest of the world. It was fishermen off the coast of Peru who first recognized the unusual warming. They named it “El Niño,” which, when capitalized, means “Christ Child” in Spanish, because it often arrived around Christmastime.
Weather depends a lot on ocean temperatures. Near the equator in the Pacific, water-surface temperatures are especially high. Under normal conditions, strong winds push the warm surface water westward from the coast of South America towards Indonesia, and cooler water from underneath rises up toward the surface. During El Niño, however, the winds are weak or may even blow eastward. Surface temperatures remain high because the cooler water from below fails to rise. Without this upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water, fish populations die or migrate. For countries like Peru and Ecuador that depend on a thriving fishing industry, El Niño has a devastating economic impact.
But fishing is not El Nino’s only victim. El Niño often produces widespread and severe climate changes. For example, rainfall increases dramatically in South America, contributing to coastal flooding and erosion. Indonesia and Australia are likely to experience drought. India is prone to heat waves caused by a delayed monsoon season. Stronger El Niño events disrupt global atmospheric circulation, which can cause unusually harsh winter weather as far north as the U.S. state of Washington. Experts contend that El Niño, combined with global warming, was partly responsible for 2015 being the world’s hottest year in history.
Right now we are in the midst of a “super” El Niño that is the strongest ever recorded. It is smashing the previous 1997-1998 record in which floods, droughts, fires, cyclones, and mudslides killed more than 20,000 people. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts that the current El Niño will persist throughout the winter of 2015-2016 and on into the spring. But once El Niño weakens, we won’t have time to celebrate. On its heels may come a strong La Niña, which will bring roughly opposite weather patterns. So it looks as though we will have plenty to talk about for quite some time.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Thirty-Eight LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be SHORT ANSWER and based on FACTUAL CONTENT and your ability to READ BETWEEN THE LINES. Listen to each question carefully and mark your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
- Why do so many people start a conversation by talking about the weather?
- Why have meteorologists and oceanographers warned the public that the worst weather is yet to come?
- In a nutshell, what is El Niño?
- Reading between the lines: Why does El Niño have an impact on coastal fisheries?
- Why did the people of Peru name the phenomenon “El Niño?”
- In which direction does the wind blow on the Pacific Ocean under normal conditions?
- What happens to the winds when El Nino occurs?
- How might a strong El Niño affect the weather in India, for example?
- What two factors contributed to 2015 being the world’s hottest year in history?
- According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, how long is the current El Niño expected to last?
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson Thirty-Eight
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost!
Commenting on how hot or cold it is or complaining about the INCESSANT rain or mugginess are dependable “ice-breakers.”
INCESSANT is an adjective that describes something that is constant or that never stops, and that is usually very irritating. Ceaseless, continuous, and relentless are some good synonyms.
Our neighbor’s dog’s INCESSANT barking has kept me awake three nights in a row!
“If you don’t stop your INCESSANT chatting, Hannah,” Mr. Murray scolded, “I’ll have to send you to the principal’s office.”
“I’ve had an INCESSANT ringing in my ears for more than two weeks,” Matilda explained to her doctor.
The INCESSANT burning of excess oil at the nearby refinery is largely responsible for the city’s air pollution problem.
INCESSANTLY is the adverb form of INCESSANT.
Johnny bragged INCESSANTLY about his accomplishments, which really annoyed his brother and sister.
The phenomenon occurs irregularly at two-to-seven-year INTERVALS, but its strength is not predictable like that of ocean tides.
An INTERVAL is a short period during which something different happens from what is happening the rest of the time.
Today’s weather calls for mostly cloudy skies with a few sunny INTERVALS.
In British English, an INTERVAL is a short period of time that separates two or more parts of a play, concert, or other performance. The American equivalent is intermission.
Snacks and refreshments will be served during the INTERVAL.
During the INTERVAL, some of the actors from the play came out to the foyer to greet VIP guests.
AT INTERVALS, as used in today’s listening passage, is a commonly used phrasal verb that means on and off or with a space of time or distance in between.
Scientists have discovered that the Earth’s climate cools AT 100,000-year INTERVALS, plunging much of North America, Europe, and Asia into ice ages.
Geologists have confirmed that earthquakes have struck the Seattle area AT 80-year INTERVALS for thousands of years.
For the first few nights, we had to wake the patient AT two-hour INTERVALS to give him his medications and check his vital signs.
Water stations will be set up AT INTERVALS along the marathon route to make sure that runners stay well hydrated throughout the race.
The phenomenon occurs irregularly at two-to-seven-year intervals, but its strength is not PREDICTABLE like that of ocean tides.
If something is PREDICTABLE, you know in advance that it is going to happen or turn out in a certain way. It’s derived from the verb PREDICT, by the way, which means to tell or state in advance of an event or happening.
Like Halley’s Comet, most of the comets in our solar system are on PREDICTABLE orbital paths.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is not as PREDICTABLE in March or April as it is in August or September.
PREDICTABLE is often used in a disapproving way to refer to something that behaves or happens in a way that you would expect and is therefore boring.
Mark is a nice enough guy, but rather dull and PREDICTABLE.
Although the movie’s ending was PREDICTABLE right from the start, I still enjoyed watching the relationship between the two main characters develop.
I have neither the time nor the patience to watch PREDICTABLE reality-TV programs like “I’m a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here!”
UNPREDICTABLE is the antonym for both of the above uses of PREDICTABLE.
Scores of students complained that the questions on the GCSE chemistry exam were UNPREDICTABLE and not covered in lessons.
Road traffic through central London is always UNPREDICTABLE, so if I were you, I’d take the Tube.
Few performers these days are as eccentric and UNPREDICTABLE as Lady Gaga.
El Niño has an IMPACT on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and weather from Australia to South America—and quite often, the rest of the world.
IMPACT is a noun that refers to the powerful effect that something or someone has on something or someone else. Influence, consequence, repercussion, and aftermath are some good equivalents. In the sentence above, IMPACT is part of the phrase, to HAVE AN IMPACT ON, which means to leave a lasting impression or to have an important (usually positive) effect on someone or something.
The government’s report analyzes the IMPACT of youth unemployment in 20 major inner-city areas.
Eventually, the IMPACT of working full-time and going to night school may hit me, but so far, I’m doing just fine and really enjoying myself.
Arthur’s moving Valedictorian speech HAD A profound IMPACT ON his fellow students.
How I perform on my A-Level exams will HAVE A big IMPACT ON what universities I can apply to.
The outgoing governor had hoped to HAVE A greater IMPACT on public policy, but his efforts were consistently thwarted by an uncooperative legislature.
An IMPACT is also the act of one object hitting or striking another object, or the force with which this happens.
On the night of the Paris attacks, Matt said he was at his home three miles away when he felt the IMPACT of the explosion outside the stadium.
Safety airbags in cars are designed to rapidly fill with air on IMPACT to prevent injuries to the driver and passengers.
For countries like Peru and Ecuador that depend on a THRIVING fishing industry, El Niño has a devastating economic impact.
Before we look at the adjective THRIVING as used in the sentence above, let’s first look at the verb THRIVE. THRIVE means to become and to continue to be successful, strong, and healthy. Flourish is nearest synonym.
Heidi is always joining new after-school clubs and societies because she THRIVES on the challenge of trying new things.
The poor little cat we found in the dumpster was sickly and frail, but after we gave it some food and a bit of attention, it really began to THRIVE.
All the flowers we planted in our garden last spring have withered and died, but wouldn’t you just know it, the weeds continue to THRIVE.
Mosquitos THRIVE in warm-weather areas where there is stagnant standing water.
Despite the current global recession, the gaming and mobile phone industries are THRIVING.
We were worried that our son would have trouble adjusting to his new school, but he seems to be THRIVING.
The adjective THRIVING, therefore, means prosperous and flourishing, as in:
Once a THRIVING tourist destination, the town of Hastings has experienced hard economic times in recent years.
Last year, Abraham’s antique shop wasn’t doing well, but now that he’s taking his wares on the road to street markets and collectible fairs, he has a THRIVING business.
For example, rainfall increases dramatically in South America, contributing to coastal flooding and EROSION.
EROSION is a noun based on the verb to ERODE, which means to gradually destroy the surface of something through wind, rain, and so on. It also means to be gradually destroyed in this way. Wear away, wear down, abrade, crumble, and dissolve are some good synonyms.
The ocean has been ERODING the cliffs along Lyme Regis for millions of years.
If left unplanted and bare, farmland is quickly ERODED by rain and wind.
ERODE also means to gradually destroy or make something weaker over time.
Recent scandals have ERODED fan support for the popular football player.
When left long enough without being confronted and dealt with, disagreements or misunderstandings can seriously ERODE family relationships.
EROSION, then, refers to the process of ERODING or being ERODED by wind, rain, and so on.
EROSION has gradually reduced the size of some South Pacific islands.
Some of the country’s largest canyons, including the Grand Canyon, were formed by water EROSION over countless millennia.
Eating sweets and drinking carbonated soft drinks are the leading causes of tooth enamel EROSION and tooth decay.
The EROSION of the public’s faith in their leaders is threatening the country’s stability.