Miss Zamboanga and the #ElNiñoLaNiña


Bellatrix Tan, a delegate of Zamboanga City in the Miss Philippines Earth 2016 pageant a week ago (in which Imelda Schweighart of Puerto Princesa, Palawan was crowned as this year’s winner), suddenly became the talk-of-the town in the worldwide web.

The 20-year-old Zamboangeña is a graduate of BA Communications in Ateneo de Zamboanga University. She recently became viral in social media because of her answer in the #EarthTalk portion, wherein each candidate must share their thoughts on whatever topic they have picked from the basket. She picked the topic #ElNiñoLaNiña and said:  El Niño, La Niña. El Niño is what we are facing right now. If we do simple things like planting trees, then we will not experience drought, right? So if we start now, we will achieve La Niña. Thank you.”


Miss Zamboanga City Bellatrix Tan, 20, during the #EarthTalk portion in Miss Philippines – Earth 2016 pageant. Click this link for the video.

Tan’s statement received various reactions from the netizens. Some understood her situation and defended her, others criticized and questioned her passion for environmental causes, while most netizens made fun of her and bashed her. Below are some of the tweets and comments of the netizens in social media through #ElNinoLaNina:

13Capture2456Tan already spoke up about the issue and defended herself from the criticisms she received following her remark. She even challenged her detractors to try joining a national pageant so that they would know how difficult it is to speak in front of the judges and spectators.

In spite of the unpleasant experience, Tan took it as a learning opportunity and remained hopeful as she plans of joining other beauty pageants someday.

What really happens during El Niño and La Niña?

For some people, they know El Niño as drought and La Niña as extreme rainfall. Well, the said phenomena are actually a bit complicated to discuss because of the scientific jargons associated with them.  El Niño and La Niña might have been described by many as “drought” and “extreme rainfall,” respectively, for the public to easily understand what those two phenomena can cause. After conducting a simple research (also a refresher) about the two phenomena, El Niño and La Niña are more than just “drought”and “extreme rainfall.”

The sea surface temperature in the central equatorial parts of the Pacific Ocean has something to do with the two phenomena.

El Niño: In the tropical Pacific, we have these Trade Winds (a blow from the eastern part of the Pacific to the western part) that push warm water near the surface in their direction of travel. This warm water piles up in the western side of the ocean (heading to Asia and Australia). As the warmer water pushes away from the Central and South American coast, the water in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean is being replaced by the cold water pulled up from deep-down in the ocean. This process is called upwelling.  This creates a temperature difference across the Pacific ocean with warmer water piled up in the west and cooler water in the east. The warmer water adds extra heat to the air which causes the air to rise and creates an area with more unsettled weather with more clouds and rainfall. This rising air in the western part of the Pacific sets up atmospheric circulation across this part with warm moist air rising on this side of the ocean and cooler dry air descending in the east side. This circulation reinforces easterlies and the Pacific Ocean sits in a self-perpetuating state until El Niño begins. If the conditions are right, the slow changes in the Pacific Ocean around the equator can settle a chain of events which can either weaken or reverse the usual Trade Winds. With weakened Trade Winds, this lessens the push of warm surface water to the western part of the ocean which will also lessen the upwelling of the cold water in the eastern side. This allows the usual colder parts of the ocean to warm, cancelling out the normal temperature difference. As the warmer water moves towards the center, this may cause wet and unsettled weather which changes the rainfall patterns over the equatorial Pacific, as well as the large scale wind patterns. It is the changing winds that has a knock-on effect, changing the temperature and rainfall in locations around the world.

EN 1

Trade Winds push warm water to the west and upwelling occurs in the east. With normal strength of Trade Winds, it maintains the normal temperature difference in the Pacific Ocean

EN 2

As the warm water piles up in the west, it adds up extra heat in the air causing an unsettled weather in the area with cooler air descending in the east side.

EN 3

With weakened Trade Winds, it lessens the push of warm water to the west and decreases upwelling in the east. Warmer water now extends to the central part of the Pacific Ocean causing the ocean to warm.

EN 4

As the warmer water moves, it causes unsettled weather in the area affecting rainfall and wind patterns. With wind patterns being affected, it now affects the global climate.

During an El Niño phenomenon, this may increase the risk of floods in some parts of South America and droughts in some parts of Asia. But wherever you are in the world, El Niño has the potential to affect you directly by the weather, or indirectly by socioeconomic impacts. Because of the El Niño, all the extra heat at the surface of the Pacific Ocean releases a vast amounts of energy into the atmosphere which can temporarily increase the global temperatures. This is why El Niño years are often featured among the warmest on records.

La Niña: This phenomenon is the opposite of El Niño. During the La Niña, there is a strengthening of the normal Trade Winds which pushes the warmer water to the far western part of the Pacific Ocean and increases the upwelling of the cold water in the east side which will eventually extends towards the central part of the ocean. Sea surface temperature in the east side drops below the normal. The impacts of La Niña may vary per season. Some countries in the west side like Indonesia and Australia, and equatorial parts of the South America are typically wetter than the normal during La Niña. While southern USA may experience drought, and the Atlantic side may experience more hurricanes.

LN 1

During La Nina, Trade Winds becomes strong, pushing the warm water to the far western side of the Pacific Ocean and increasing the upwelling in the east side.

Now, El Niño is not just as simple as “drought” and La Niña as “extreme rainfall.” Droughts and extreme rainfalls are just some of the effects of El Niño and La Niña phenomena.

Now, tell me it’s simple.

Source: MET Office, UK’s National Weather Service. To learn more about El Niño and La Niña, you may check their instructional videos by clicking this link.

Defending Tan

Miss Zamboanga City, Bellatrix Tan, may not have delivered her thoughts very well, but that does not give us the license to ridicule her – esp. giving her harsh remarks which are already below the belt.

Maybe what she was trying to point out is by planting more trees, it may lessen the effect of El Niño by cooling down the temperature of a certain area because trees give natural shades to the surroundings. I also think that she mistakenly thought that La Niña is good since it is associated with rainfall which she thought could ease the effect of El Niño, which is drought. Or, maybe she was just really overwhelmed that time that she delivered her answer differently. What I do not understand is why some people need to bash her and make fun of her instead of consoling her and giving her proper advise and information so that she can avoid doing it again the next time? We do not know what and how she felt that time onstage, so we should not judge her. Just try to put yourselves on her situation that moment and you will what I am talking abouy.

Let us always consider being  just and humane whenever we express our thoughts and opinions towards someone as it may have an impact to him/her.

In spite of the unfortunate incident, I really admire Miss Zamboanga for taking all the criticisms positively and for remaining hopeful. I also want to applaud her courage during the #EarthTalk portion – at least, she gave it a try. To Bellatrix Tan, please do not give up reaching your dreams and prove to everyone that you can do better someday. Nevermind your detractors.

And to the future delegates of Miss Earth, do not just join Miss Earth for the sake of joining pageants. Miss Earth is not just an ordinary beauty pageant. Miss Earth requires a woman who can represent the organization in its causes and projects. If you are an aspiring Earth Warrior, you should do your homework and make a research about the background, and the mission and the vision of the organization. You should also have a complete knowledge and understanding of the current environmental issues. And most important, you should be passionate about spreading awareness and promoting environmental protection and preservation.


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