Warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean waters during a strong El Nino.
Chris Farley was partially correct in his personification of this phenomenom in a famous "Saturday Night Live" skit during the 1990s. In the funny skit he says: "El Nino is Spanish for....pause...The Nino." While he was right that the word is of Spanish origin, the word actually translates to "the child."
How did this well publicized term get entangled with weather and climate?
El Nino is the warming of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean, which occurs irregularly around every two to seven years. This affects weather patterns across the globe, including the United States. Fishermen off the west coast of South America noticed their fishing industry was disrupted occasionally by the warming of these waters off their coast. This seemed to happen right around the end of the year near Christmas, which led them to call it "El Nino" in reference to the Christ Child.